Defense paves way for Lane’s first flag football city title

Photos by Brandon Parker/OSA

By Michael Wojtychiw

Defense wins championships.

Defense had been a strongsuit for Lane’s girls flag football season, as the team didn’t give up more than 12 points in a game more than twice in 14 Chicago Public League games. And those two times the Champions gave up 12 points were also the only times teams scored more than six points on them. The squad came into the city semifinals Oct. 21 with at least seven shutouts to their name.

They added two more, blanking both Simeon in the semifinal and Phillips 18-0 in the championship game to secure the program’s first city championship.

“This was all possible because of a lot of hours put in,” Lane quarterback Alaina Valmassei said. “We’ve worked so hard, put all our hearts into this one. Most of us had never played before we got to Lane and we saw this program and it’s amazing how much we’ve improved.”

“The defense has been lockdown for most of the year,” Lane coach Caroline Schwartz said. “They’ve had some rough games, but today they showed up and had double games of their lives.”

The third year of flag football in the CPL had around 60 schools fielding teams, a considerable jump over the 22 the first year and 40-something last year.

The Champions were one of those teams last year that decided to start a program. After having some success in its inaugural year, the Champions hit the offseason hard, trying to get as many girls as they could to come out and be a part of a team that was looking to make a name for itself in the sport, not only throughout the CPL, but the state of Illinois as well.

“We’ve lucked out with who started last year and what they built and who they brought in,” the Lane coach said. “Those players brought in athletes from their other teams abd people heard about us and I give them all the credit for how much we’ve been able to accomplish.”

While the defense was doing its job, the offense got Lane on the board early when Alaina Valmassei connected with Kristi Sevova on a touchdown pass three minutes into the game, giving the Champions a quick 6-0 lead.

Lane was able to extend its lead with about two minutes left in the half on another Valmassei completion, sending the teams into the halftime break with Lane leading by a score of 12-0.

“Really getting to know my receivers, through morning practices, multiple hours, that helped us a lot,” Valmassei said. “How fast they are, where they’re going to be. you know where they’re going to be.”

After a pretty uneventful first half of the second half, the junior signal caller connected with Sevova again with seven minutes remaining to ice the game and the championship for Lane.

For Lane, to be able to win the city title in only its second season, was impressive. But to do it with a new starting quarterback and a number of players moving around due to injury? And do it on its home field in front of its home fans?

All the sweeter.

“I love football,” the Lane quarterback said. “Just this opportunity is everything I’ve always wanted. I feel like being quarterback is playing it’s a strategic game. It’s like a game of chess, where everything is in front of you, you’re making decisions, but it’s still athletic, you’re still running. It’s the perfect combination of thinking and doing.”

Both teams advanced to the state championships, held at the Chicago Bears’ Halas Hall in Lake Forest Oct. 27-28. Lane faced off with Glenbrook South in its quarterfinal, while Phillips played Proviso East in its state opener. A win in the quarterfinals guaranteed a team a top-four finish in the state.

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