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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

Friday Night Lights to return tomorrow, May 17, with seniors vs. juniors powder puff football game

Middle+linebacker+junior+Adlyn+Garcia+catches+a+pass+during+a+Monday%2C+May+13%2C+practice+late+after+school+at+the+Sunny+Hills+field.+Wearing+their+pink+jerseys%2C+the+juniors+have+been+preparing+for+the+Friday%2C+May+17%2C+powder+puff+game+against+the+seniors+at+Buena+Park+High+School+stadium.
Image used with permission from Luke Lawrence
Middle linebacker junior Adlyn Garcia catches a pass during a Monday, May 13, practice late after school at the Sunny Hills field. Wearing their pink jerseys, the juniors have been preparing for the Friday, May 17, powder puff game against the seniors at Buena Park High School stadium.

As a prelude to the school’s inaugural girls flag football season this fall, the Associated Student Body [ASB] will sponsor a powder puff game Friday, May 17, at the Buena Park High School stadium.

“People should go because this is a great community event; the band will perform, Dance Production will perform, and this will be the last time you see our senior athletes compete,” said athletic director Paul Jones, the head coach of the senior squad. “We are starting girls flag football next year, and this is our big kickoff event.”

The game will feature a team of 23 seniors wearing black uniforms taking on 25 juniors wearing pink jerseys, organizers said. Instead of the traditional football rules of 11 players on each side of the ball, eight from each squad will be allowed to be on the field at a time during each possession.

Other differences will include:

  • seven points for each touchdown instead of the usual six
  • no point-after or two-point conversion tries after touchdowns
  • an 80-yard field instead of the traditional 100 yards
  • 20 instead of 10 yards for a first down on each possession
  • no kickoffs or punts; each change of possession starts on the opponents’ 20-yard line
  • four, 10-minute quarters instead of 12-minute ones

Assistant principal Peter Karavedas, who will be an assistant coach for the seniors, said the last time Sunny Hills held a powder puff game was in 2016 and 2017, each time with the seniors overpowering the juniors.

For the juniors, recently hired Lancer football head coach Fred Gambrell will serve as their head coach with math teacher Dylan Kuhn as his assistant, Jones said. Kuhn has also agreed to sign on as the head coach for girls flag football in the fall.

Junior Sophia Munoz said she plans to play corner on defense Friday night and aims to end the seniors’ winning streak.

“I feel [that] we’re more prepared than the seniors and that we do a lot more in practice,” said Munoz, who had never played flag football before but plans to try out for the fall sport. “We have girls in our team that have different skills and strengths that will weaken the seniors.”

Senior Celine Villasenor disagrees.

“Our team is really athletic,” said Villasenor, who will play receiver and defensive back in Friday night’s game. “We have a lot of people in sports on the varsity teams, so hopefully that will give us an advantage.”

LANCER GIRLS FLAG FOOTBALL TO PLAY IN THE CENTURY CONFERENCE’S NORTH HILLS LEAGUE

Jones had informed the 85 girls who attended a Thursday, Jan. 18, interest meeting during lunch in Room 401 that the Fullerton Joint Union High School District [FJUHSD] had approved the sport for the upcoming season.

I was impressed by the number of girls we had come out for the meeting,” he said.

Even though CIF officials had sanctioned girls flag football to debut this school year, the FJUHSD had not pushed for it on its high school campuses.

“Our district is currently evaluating girls flag football and does not currently have a direction that we are moving in; our district will not have girls flag football for next fall,” Jones wrote in a Feb. 8, 2023, email to The Accolade.

But the tune changed by October 2023.

“One of our assistant superintendents in the district, Karl Zener, told the athletic directors that he was working on getting approval for girls flag football,” Jones said.

TWO UNDERCLASSMEN WHO PUSHED FOR THE SPORT LAST YEAR

Sophomore Desirea Valdez gets ready to throw a football at Bastanchury Park in Fullerton at the end of March. Valdez wants to try out for quarterback before the inaugural season of girls flag football starts this fall. (Image used with permission from Desirea Valdez)

Sophomores Noelani Canotal and Desirea Valdez were among the names school officials provided as showing interest in bringing girls flag football to Sunny Hills.

Canotal said she had emailed principal Craig Weinreich about the issue in September 2022 when she was a freshman who wanted to add girls flag football as her sport.

“I wanted to bring girls flag football [to Sunny Hills] because I was really excited for the opportunity for girls to play football,” said the 10th-grader, who first learned how to play the sport when she was 5 years old. “I know it’s not always something girls like, but I know there are tons of girls that do enjoy it.”

Canotal said she never received a reply from Weinreich. 

However, four months later at a girls basketball game in January 2023, the student-athlete who plays three sports — softball, track and girls basketball — said she saw the principal in the gym and approached him at halftime to discuss the topic.

“He thanked me for the email and acknowledged that there’s interest in the sport and that hopefully, it’ll happen in the next couple of years,” she said.

Canotal said she was not entirely satisfied with this information.

“I was so excited because I really wanted the opportunity, but I was worried that it wouldn’t be in time for me to play if it didn’t become a sport before my senior year,” she said.

Even though Canotal is not eligible to compete in Friday’s powder puff game, she said she plans to try out for the team this summer.

“I’m excited; I’m proud of our [school], and I’m super happy with it coming,” she said.

Valdez, who is on the girls wrestling team, said she became captivated by flag football after seeing her brother play at a park event once when he was 6 years old.

“I wanted to create a [girls flag football] club or a team because other schools had the sport, and I didn’t think it was fair for us not to have a team,” she said.

At the beginning of this school year, Valdez said she proposed the flag football idea to her counselor, Tracey Falleta. The sophomore was not aware of Canotal’s efforts.

During their conversation, Falleta said she referred the student to athletic director Paul Jones.

“What I tried to do was connect her with the right people within the athletic department,” Falleta said. “Then she took that information and went from there with it; [she] definitely got the ball rolling, which I think is amazing.”

In September, Valdez emailed Jones and stopped by his office to ask about starting the sport on campus.

“Desirea was the first student to bring up [to me about] girls flag football,” the athletic director said. “I was excited that we had student interest and that Desirea was interested in partnering with us to get girls flag football off of the ground.”

Jones said he directed her to ASB adviser David Fenstermaker to create a club, the same way boys volleyball ended up getting approved as a sport in the district.

Fenstermaker said he was initially unsure if the sophomore’s plan would succeed because of limited space on campus for the team to hold practices.

“It’s always difficult for administrators at Sunny Hills to find facilities,” he said.

He said he told Valdez to come and see him again once she gauged interest in the club.

But the sophomore never had to do that because by then, district officials were looking into doing what Canotal and Valdez had campaigned for. And that’s when Jones held that interest meeting in January.

“No way — like they’re actually going to bring a flag football team to our school? Like I’m pretty pumped up, ready for tryouts,” Valdez said. “I’ve been trying to train for quarterback because I want to be quarterback. If that don’t work, I’ll probably be a running back because I’m pretty fast.

“But overall, I’m like really excited. … And my parents, my whole family are proud of me, making it a [sport].”

FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS AGAIN

As of Wednesday, May 15, some students were still deciding whether to catch the powder puff game.

“They’re not my class – the seniors and the juniors,” said sophomore Joshua Garcia, who is undecided about going. “I’m just not really close to people in those grades. It’s mostly [people in] my grade level that I know.”

Sophomore Adyson Holbrook said she hopes to catch it, though her schedule for the day is uncertain.

“I would love to be able to see our Lady Lancers working in sports other than the ones we had the past many years that the school has been established,” Holbrook said. “I know a few of the juniors on the team, and I want to support my friends in their sports that they’re interested in.”

Some upperclassmen are also mixed about the event.

“I’m just not really interested in stuff like that, and I don’t know any people who are taking part,” senior Rachel Kim said.

Senior Chloe Lee said she plans to go with five other of her friends from the Class of 2024.

“I’m rooting for the senior team because I’m a senior, and my friend is playing for that team,” Lee said.

Tickets for the 6 p.m. powder puff game will cost $5 with an ASB gold card and $10 without. Tickets can only be purchased on GoFan.

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Julie Jung
Julie Jung, Staff Reporter
After completing Journalism 1 in her freshman year, sophomore Julie Jung joins The Accolade as a staff reporter for the 2023-2024 school year. Although Jung previously found interest in writing feature stories, she hopes to gain more experience in other elements of journalism and make new connections with peers throughout her time in The Accolade. Outside of school, Jung likes to spend time with friends and family and play games.
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