Steelers host women’s flag football championship
Heinz Field hosted football on Sunday, but it was a little different from what Steelers fans are used to seeing on a Sunday afternoon in the fall.
The Steelers hosted the Girls Flag Football League Championship Tournament they helped launch this year for high school girls, with high schools participating in Ambridge, Ellis School, Moon, North Allegheny, Shaler and West Allegheny, and the Steelers Pat Freiermuth and Derek Watt on hand to cheer them on and hand out championship awards.
Shaler Area High School emerged champions, beating Moon 1-0 in double overtime on the same court as the Steelers.
“It’s surreal. You really can’t describe this stuff in words,” said Shaler Area High School coach Robby Heinrich. “For the girls to come…the chance to play on Heinz Field, it’s amazing. It’s awesome. You really can’t describe it. To see these girls come down and be part of history. To start something that goes to take off in the next two years and generations after them. They’re creating a ripple effect right now. They’re laying the groundwork for girls they won’t even meet. But in 10 to 15 years it’s gonna come back and be amazing.
“I tell the girls all the time that it’s more about memories than winning. Today’s championship is more of a cornerstone than anything. It’s more or less how much we’ve grown together as a family, all the memories we had, the memories we made on the field. That’s what will last forever. This trophy will wear dust, but the memories will last forever for these kids.
For the girls, who are used to playing in much smaller venues, playing at Heinz Field was life changing.
“It was unreal from the second we walked out. I had never been to Heinz Field before, so being on the field was amazing,” said Hannah Warren of Shaler. “The family we have created. The girls in my team, we have all become so close, we love each other very much, we support each other 24/7. The coach, of course, always gives us the best advice possible, no matter how angry, sad or happy we are.
“The game was to the brim. We are the team that is always the underdog. To get to this level was unreal. That final touchdown, we were more in shock than anything and all very happy for each other. ‘other.”
In this pilot season for the league, while winning is always a goal, as the winning team said, it was about memories, relationships and so much more.
“It’s 100% more than winning,” said Mike Marchinsky, the Steelers’ youth football and player relations manager, who also happens to be the West Allegheny team’s coach. “I’ve always said that. As you get older, the pressure and the desire to win increases. And I understand that, especially at the high school level. But I told my team from day one, I don’t care if we we score 60 points, or we give up 60 points. I don’t care if we win or lose. Our two goals are to have fun and learn something. If they go out and learn to compete, learn the games, have fun , smile after every game. It’s definitely more than winning.
“One of the things that even at the youth level when we have our camps and our clinics is that we want to try to teach kids that it’s okay to want to win and to be upset when you lose, but it’s more about teaching the game situation, knowing what you need to do to win, knowing you need to hold them, or conversion attempts, so you can get the ball back, these are all things that many of these girls haven’t learned before. Me is teaching them the different parts of the game so they can get better and better.”