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The air was tense in the final six seconds of the game at Bayside High School field on Tuesday.
The Commodores were about to defeat Townsend Harris 6-0 after scoring the game’s only touchdown and the home team was feverishly preparing to defend its lead.
“Defense,” one man shouted from the crowd of parents and students on the bleachers.
“This is your home field, Bayside,” another said.
It could have been the atmosphere for a boys football game, but in reality it was the second-ever Bayside H.S. girls flag football game.
Just two years after the PSAL introduced flag football as a new sport for girls, Bayside students and fans enthusiastically embraced it.
“This is a great school to go to and we have a very good sports program. I just wanted to bring something new to get even more kids involved,” said head coach Magdalini Kassims.
Kassims surveyed students to test the desire to play the sport two seasons ago. Nearly 100 girls signed up. Last year, she hosted a tryout, where about 50 girls showed up.
Kassims had enough to fill at least two teams, but made tough cuts to get down to 25 girls, spawning the first-ever girls flag football squad at the school.
Made up of academics, artists, musicians and athletes of all kinds, the team is a composite of girls who appreciate sports and others who want to learn football. Some actually have some football experience, such as sophomore quarterback Lenore Aponte, who scored the team’s lone touchdown against Townsend Harris.
Aponte, who also plays basketball and soccer at Bayside, said she learned how to play football by joining games with “boys at recess,” so she immediately jumped at the opportunity to play for the school.
“I was so excited when we heard it was a go,” Aponte said. “I love playing football. It’s fun and I’m good at it.”
The team isn’t lacking in spirit. With the game on the line, the girls screamed “Intercept it,” for the final play, a pass attempt by Townsend Harris.
Bayside’s defense wrapped up the Lady Hawks, stopping the play and giving the Commodores (1-1 PSAL) the first win in history.
Although she is happy they won, Kassimis said she is mostly concerned with the experience the girls will get from playing football.
“Winning is important because we all like to be winners, we all like to feel good,” she said. “But what’s more important to me is that the girls have a positive experience. If you worked hard enough and you’re dedicated enough, eventually the wins will come.”