Juniors Defeat Seniors in Annual Thanksgiving Powderpuff Game

Thanksgiving rolled around quickly, and at Malden High School, that means the annual Powderpuff flag football game between the junior and senior girls was ready to commence. The game was played yearly up until 2018 when it took a three-year hiatus. In 2021, the tradition resumed and many hope that it lasts for a long time.

Before the game, Class of 2024 advisor Kristen Kirby spoke about the importance of a women’s football event at the high school. “I think that it’s really important,” she explained. “I know that there are a few females that do play football, but not very many. It is great to expose them to something that they could be interested in and later pursue.” She also commented on how the game needs to be revived at the school. “It used to be big, but it has lost interest in the past couple of years so we need to boost that up again.”

This year, the game would have eleven players on each side going at it on a 40-yard field. Each team had one or two subs at a time. The game would only be played in one direction with all drives starting at that 40-yard line, meaning interceptions and fumbles were blown dead. There would be four downs given with a first-down marker 20 yards from the end zone. No lineman position would be in effect, with all players besides the quarterback lining up as either wide receiver or cornerback. Four quarters of fifteen minutes, timed by sole referee Michael Lightbody, would be played. Besides that, this is your average flag football game.

A few players from the boys’ football team decided to help coach the girls during the game. The junior team was coached by Kirby, Julie Grillon, and Shannon Votaw. The senior team had no official coach, but Lightbody advised their substitutions.

Mayor Gary Christensen came out to the field for the coin toss. The seniors won the toss and elected to receive. The juniors would receive the ball to start the second half.

Mayor Christenson tosses the pre-game coin flip. Photo submitted by Gary Christenson.

The seniors' first drive went absolutely nowhere. The junior defense was too strong and a two-yard completion on fourth down was not even close to the first down marker. The juniors took over and threw a quick pass to Victoria Gammon for a spectacular first down. Unfortunately for them, Ramneet Chahal’s pass was intercepted in the endzone by senior Mindy Nguyen. The first series of possessions ended without a score.

Once again, the seniors could not move the football. Four consecutive incompletions resulted in another turnover and the juniors received the ball back. The potential that they showed on the last drive paid off and Chahal completed a few passes before delivering the game’s first touchdown strike to Abigail Morrison.

A rebound was needed for the struggling senior offense. For the first time, quarterback Peyton Lightbody moved the team near the first-down line. Unfortunately, a lob pass was intercepted by the speedy Gammon and the juniors went on offense again. They once again exhibited success on their next drive as Chahal led them inside the ten. On fourth down, the pass went to Gammon but a great flag pull by senior Amy Palenza held the juniors short as the first quarter came to a close.

After a quick break, the seniors went back out on the field. Once again, nothing was working. The offense was unable to complete more than one pass on the drive and the juniors took the ball. Finally, the seniors were able to catch a break. New quarterback Morrison completed a pass on fourth down and thought she had a touchdown until a blocking penalty was called, resulting in a turnover. This is what the seniors needed to start moving the ball.

But yet again, a few solid passes were not enough to acquire a first down. Another turnover on downs gave possession to the juniors. However, the senior defense came through again. Morrison’s first pass of the drive was intercepted masterfully by the outstretched arms of Tia Sljuka. That defensive momentum was simply not enough for the inadequate senior offense who would throw another interception two plays later to Jayden Caplis.

The next junior drive would end up being their last of the half. Morrison completed a few passes down the field to advance inside the 15 yard-line. All of a sudden, that momentum halted. Minimal gains and an incompletion on fourth down gave the seniors one last possession to end the half on a good note. Longlast, it seemed that things would end that way. Lightbody finally made some completions to move the team inside the ten. On the final fourth down play of the half, a pass into the endzone targeted at Palenza fell incomplete and the halftime whistle blew.

Alina Dao attempts to evade two senior tacklers. Photo submitted by Isabella Oliveira.

Halftime was a much-needed break for both sides. Offensively, both teams were struggling to find the endzone. The seniors were unable to move the ball at all while the juniors had a few costly turnovers and penalties that held them from opening up the game. Still, those juniors held a 6-0 halftime lead over a senior class that had managed just one first down during the first two quarters.

The juniors received the ball to begin the second half, and they looked incredible. Morrison drove down the field before a strike to Alina Dao who fought through contact to dive in for a touchdown. This brought a 12-0 lead to the younger side to begin the quarter. The rest of the third quarter was extremely sloppy. Two senior drives and two junior drives all resulted in a turnover on downs as the quarter came to an end.

The same pattern continued to start the fourth quarter as another senior drive ended with a 4th down incompletion. Just when the hope of any offensive success seemed to be lost, especially after the game’s only sack by Sjlaka, Chahal threw a short pass to Dao who maneuvered around two defenders for an unbelievable 44-yard touchdown reception. With the score at 18-0 in the fourth quarter, the win looked inevitable for the junior class.

Two senior possessions and one junior possession would result in incompletions on fourth down. On the final play of the game, the seniors walked off the field on a high note after Morrison threw an interception to Palenza. Regardless of that, the junior class was thrilled to walk out of MacDonald Stadium with an 18-0 victory over the senior class.

Lightbody had mixed feelings about the matchup. “Disappointing loss, but I think we all had fun during spirit week and that’s all that matters.” She also “loved playing quarterback” even though the offense did not find the endzone.

Although the game was not too close, both the juniors and seniors had a great time playing football. While the seniors will move on from the school, the juniors are sure to play for the senior team next year as the longtime tradition continues.

The teams pose for a picture after the game. Photo submitted by Melissa Lightbody.

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