By Michael Wojtychiw
This fall, the Chicago Public League saw a thrilling ending to its girls flag football championship game, one in which Taft tackled a Kenwood player at the two-yard line preserving the Eagles’ first flag football championship.
So when the National Teacher’s Academy and Lindblom Academic Center met on May 25th at Lane Stadium to determine the 7th/8th grade championship, they had a lot to live up to.
Safe to say the two exceeded what was expected of them and some, as NTA pulled out a thrilling 53-51 overtime win in the battle of Eagles.
“It feels really good to have a championship in the seventh and eighth grade girls names because we tried our hardest…we went through a lot of struggles to get to where we arre today,” NTA’s Ka’mya Lee said.
“NTA is one of the best schools I’ve ever taught at,” coach Dia Bennett said. “It’s warm, it’s fun, communal and they accept everybody.
“The closeness means a lot for me. There were a lot of emotions on the field and I feel like if we didn’t have that family aspect, we wouldn’t be able to tend to those emotions and get the win we got there today.”
Both teams came into the matchup with perfect record, LIndblom carrying an unblemished 7-0 record, while NTA was 6-0-1.
And they lived up to the hype.
If you’re not familiar with the scoring system in flag football, touchdowns are six points as they are in tackle football, you can go for either one- or two-point extra points and teams can score three points each for a turnover on downs or interception.
Teams start their drive at the 40-yard-line and can pick up first downs as they drive down the field.
Lindblom scored on the first play of the game, with quarterback Samaria Crowder hitting Kaitlyn Gaines for a touchdown and followed it up with a turnover on downs, giving the squad a quick 9-0 lead.
The teams would go back-and-forth throughout the entire game. When one Eagles squad scored, it always seemed as if the other Eagles squad would follow.
If it wasn’t touchdown-for-touchdown, it would be touchdown/forced interception-for-touchdown/forced interception.
Late in the second half, Lindblom took a 42-36 lead on a Crowder pass to Taylor Harris and extending it on the next play to 45-36 thanks to an interception by Nyilah Harris.
NTA wasn’t done though.
After forcing an incomplete pass, NTA came up with an interception of its own, cutting the lead to 45-39 and giving the team the ball with time running down.
That’s when quarterback Ka’mya Lee did as she’d done a numb er of times previously: connected with Jamariae Lewis on a 40-yard completion at the buzzer to tie the game at 45.
“It was…I was scared, really scared because I wanted to win a championship,” said Lee, who will play at KIng College Prep next season. “It’s my first championship game I’ve gotten to play in, so for me, i was very grateful.”
The extra point would be no good, meaning…
Flag football overtime rules include that you get four downs to score from the 10-yard line.
Lindblom got the ball first and after two incomplete passes, Crowder connected with Akira Cannon to give LIndblom the 51-45 lead.
A missed extra point meant that if NTA scored a touchdown and then converted on the extra point, the team would be bringing home the city championship trophy.
Two passes to Townsend tied the game at 51 and a converted extra point gave the Eagles their first-ever CPS championship of any kind.
“She’s one of the best leaders I’ve had both inside and outside of the classroom,” the NTA coach said about her quarterback. “She can lead on any field, in any situation.
“Hopefully this will get us some more interest next season.”
It was an even bigger deal for NTA because this was the first year that flag football had become a girls sport. Until this year, it had always been co-ed, but with the popularity of the sport growing, it made sense to split apart.
And now, players like Lee will have an opportunity to play in high school. Lee will be attending King and plans on playing there, while Laila Townsend also plans to play in high school, at Muchin College Prep.