On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Powder Puff game promises plenty of educational opportunities

October 23, 2013 

To some it might look like a scene from an alternate universe.

On the Bald Eagle Area High School stadium field, two all-female sides will run sweeps, draws and blitzes, sans helmets and pads.

Over on the sidelines, brawny cheerleaders will chant and dance, decked out in skirts and tights.

For one night every year, the Powder Puff game presents a topsy-turvy world.

In the school’s 29th game on Nov. 2, junior and senior girls will square off in flag football to benefit the Pennsylvania Breast Cancer Coalition. Each team will be coached by varsity football players from the same class.

Upperclassmen boys also will grab pom poms, lead the crowd in cheers and even perform a halftime show.

“Everybody gets into it,” said Sharon Nilson, a BEA technology department staff member and a co-adviser for the game. “They have a lot of fun. The girls really have a blast with it.”

Admission to the 7 p.m. game is free, though donations will be accepted at the gate. Last year’s event raised $1,800 for the coalition.

Until three years ago, the event simply provided entertainment. Then, female BEA students asked Nilson if they could turn the game into a fundraiser to support breast cancer research and patients.

At first, students named the national Susan G. Komen organization as the beneficiary. That changed after a coalition representative came to BEA and spoke about how the game could support efforts to help Pennsylvania women.

“The girls thought that was a better idea, to keep the money here,” Nilson said.

Businesses and individuals can make donations in advance by writing checks out to “BEA Student Government.” The school will send one collective check to the coalition.

This year, participants hope to raise money also by selling pink sweatshirts — $20 for sizes small to extra large and $22 for double-extra large and up — and a limited number of $5 pink scarves crocheted by BEA consumer science club members.

In addition, organizers will hold 50/50 raffles at the game. Contact Nilson at snilson@beasd.org to donate raffle items or, by mid-afternoon Friday, reserve a scarf.

Nilson wants the game to raise awareness of breast cancer, as well.

Three hours before game time, the 36 senior and 32 junior players will join the volunteer coaches and cheerleaders for a potluck dinner. Cancer survivors are scheduled to speak to the students.

“So they have an idea where all the hard work is going toward,” Nilson said.

The game itself — and the practices leading up to it — also promise to be educational for everyone involved.

Wig-wearing cheerleaders should discover it isn’t easy to keep a crowd pumped up for 90 minutes.

Novice coaches will learn about the complexities of calling plays and making substitutions.

And most of the players probably will finish with a deeper understanding of the game’s nuances, having had to block, rush, run routes and cover receivers.

“They kind of find out there’s a lot more to football than throwing a ball and running,” Nilson said.

In this case, tackling isn’t included. Not everyone, though, pays heed to the ban.

Each year, Nilson said, a few girls go too far, drawing penalty flags from the referees.

“The girls, they really want to tackle,” Nilson said. “They’re not allowed. Every once in a while, we have an accidental tackle. They give them two. After that, you’re out of the game.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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