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Girls High School Flag Football

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Browns host 3rd annual Northeast Ohio Girls High School Flag Football Championship Tournament

28 teams participated in the championship tournament on May 6

NEW Girls Flag

As the sun set on Cleveland Browns Stadium and the stadium lights illuminated the field, teams from Berkshire and Kirtland took the field for the championship game of the third annual Northeast Ohio Girls High School Flag Football Championship Tournament, presented by Gatorade and in partnership with Bridgestone.

After a back-and-forth showdown, as time was winding down, Kirtland threw a game-winning touchdown pass to seal the game. Cheers erupted from the stands from family, friends and spectators as the athletes celebrated their victory. As champions for the third time in four years since Northeast Ohio Flag Football started the league in 2021, the girls lifted the prized 2024 Girls Flag trophy over their heads.

"They were focused, and they were very determined; and it was fun to see all their hard work come to fruition," Kirtland coach Tiger Laverde said. "And they're so happy right now. This makes it. They'll never forget this. This is a memory they'll have the rest of their lives."

Twenty-eight teams participated in the single-elimination tournament on May 6, which featured nearly 400 athletes who played in the fourth spring season of the Northeast Ohio Girls High School Flag Football division.

High schools that participated in the tournament included Madison, Magnificat, Mentor, Berkshire, Cleveland Central Catholic, Perry, Akron Early, Lake Catholic, Warrensville, Willoughby South, Berea-Midpark, Cleveland Heights, VASJ, Maple Heights, Bedford, Brush, Mayfield, Riverside, Lorain, Elyria Catholic, Notre Dame Cathedral Latin, Hawken, Euclid, Shaker Heights, Lutheran East and Kirtland.

The Cleveland Browns hosted the 3rd Annual Northeast Ohio Girls High School Flag Football Championship Tournament presented by Gatorade and in partnership with Bridgestone at Cleveland Browns Stadium on May 6, 2024.

Each high school received photo opportunities and chances to talk with Browns players CB Greg Newsome II and DB Justin Hardee, as well as Browns head coach Kevin Stefanski and other members of the Browns' coaching staff and football operations.

"I think it gives them a sense that we actually care," Newsome said. "And that people care about their talents and people care that they're striving to become football players or whatever they want to do. So, I think it's great that we're able to support something like this."

Newsome attended the championship tournament in 2023 and was amazed at the growth of the tournament from the previous year. He watched the girls compete over the course of the tournament and participated in the huddle of the Berea high school team as well as Willoughby South. He had attended a few practices over the season for the Berea team and helped coach the athletes.

"There's some very athletic girls," Newsome said. "I was coaching one of the teams and I just gave the girl the ball and (she was) gone. So, I think it's a great quality. They're very competitive. One girl was talking smack, so they're talking smack. I love it. So, it's definitely fierce out there."

The Browns have continued to focus their efforts on elevating girls flag football to promote equality in sports offered at the high school level.

They began their journey with the implementation of Girls High School Flag Football in 2021 alongside Northeast Ohio Flag Football and created the first Girls High School Flag Football division in Ohio. Their ultimate goal is to create a pathway for Girls High School Flag Football to become a sanctioned varsity sport under the Ohio High School Athletic Association (OHSAA).

Until then, Newsome believes there is an importance in having events like the tournament for the athletes to still be able to play the sport they love and compete.

"I think it means a lot for them," Newsome said. "It's just starting to grow. So, just to be able to see the growth from last year to this year and I just think it's unbelievable for them. I think they love it so much. I was able to come to a few practices for the Berea team and like they're just super excited that we're around and showing support. So, I think it's great for them."

For one such junior at Kirtland, she's watched first-hand how the sport has grown. Kennedy Boyd watched during her eighth-grade year how Kirtland created a girl's flag football team in 2022 and the enjoyment the girls had on the team. Two years later, she joined Kirtland's team when she was a sophomore.

As she stood on the field at Cleveland Browns Stadium following her team's victory, she took a moment to reflect just what the tournament and flag football has meant to her and her teammates.

"It's really special," Boyd said. "I mean, especially being a female nowadays. It's pretty big to all of us. I mean, we all want to be the star and special, but I think it means more to us being females and us all bonding together and everyone seeing that we are one."