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Buffalo Bills host annual High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff

Buffalo Bills host the High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff, March 23, 2024.
Buffalo Bills host the High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff, March 23, 2024.

The Buffalo Bills hosted their annual High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff event in partnership with Section VI, Section V, UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and the New York State Public High School Athletic Association on Saturday and Sunday.

Sixty teams from across Western New York flocked to the ADPRO Training Center in Orchard Park where they scrimmaged against each other and listened to various guest speakers.

This year will mark the first that high school girls flag football is recognized by the NYSPHSAA, a significant step in growing the game and increasing its accessibility.

"It means everything. It's an honor to be a part of this," said senior Alex Percassi, who attends Churchville-Chili.

"I'm so excited to be like, 'I was in my school's first-ever flag football team," said Gia McElowain, also of Churchville-Chili.

Girls flag football was introduced as a spring sport two years ago, but this spring will be the first time athletes have a chance to compete for a state championship.

"It's honestly so awesome being able to a part of a new influence of people who want to start their own team," said Julia Preston of Batavia High School.

The Buffalo Bills hosted the High School Girls Flag Football Kickoff this weekend for 60 teams from Western New York to the Finger Lakes Region in partnership with UBMD Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

Joining the teams at the Bills' facility was Sky Sports analyst and former Bills coach Phoebe Schecter, University of Saint Mary women's flag football head coach Amber Clark and Buffalo Bills defensive coordinator Bobby Babich, who all spoke to the athletes ahead of the scrimmage.

Schecter spoke of the growth of girls flag she has seen throughout the three years the Bills have hosted the kickoff event.

"Even though today, you will all be playing against each other, the way this sisterhood is built, it's cheering for each other, it's being excited," Schecter said. "This sport will bring you so many different places."

Clark is in her second year as the head coach for the women's flag football program at USM, which offers scholarships for girls flag players. She made sure to remind the participants of the doors that playing flag football can open.

"This game is so beautiful, it presents so many opportunities," Clark said. "I'm so happy to push my passion onto you all and share with you my love of the game."

Clark was named the defensive captain of the U.S. Women's Flag Football Team in the summer of 2023, going on to become a IFAF Americas Continental Gold Medalist.

Finally, Babich – whose daughter plays flag football for her high school – spoke to the girls and shared some of the Bills' team philosophy.

"Play smart. Understand your opponent. Understand what you're doing first and foremost and what your strengths are," Babich said. "What your coaches are telling you are fundamentals. Dominate the fundamentals. … Pride yourself at being good at the little things that are everyday things."

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