Last tackle powder-puff football game is sacked

Terry Spencer
Associated Press

Jupiter, Fla. – — What boosters describe as the nation’s last tackle powder-puff football game is no more, at least for now.

After 50 years of spirited competition between senior and juniors girls, Jupiter High’s principal has canceled the annual game, saying he doesn’t believe helmets and shoulder pads borrowed from boys’ teams adequately protect the players from the game’s hits.

The cancellation of this month’s game blindsided Jupiter, a middle-class suburb on the Palm Beach coast. The game packs the stands — something the Jupiter boys’ team rarely does — and raised $7,000 last year, parents say. While boys dress like female cheerleaders in tight shorts, crop tops and wigs, the girls get to experience the thrill of competing before a roaring crowd instead of playing softball or soccer in front of a few dozen parents and friends.

“The game makes our town special. It is a once in a lifetime or maybe twice in a lifetime opportunity. You can’t come back when you are 30 and play,” said Haley Osborne, a 17-year-old senior who is disappointed that she’s missing her final chance.

“It is almost like a Friday night in Texas. Everyone comes out to watch the game. That is why you see the uproar. That’s what this game means to this town,” said Marcy Murphy, a special needs job coach.

But Principal Dan Frank, who has led the 2,800-student school for three years, is firm: This year’s game is off. A girl broke her leg a few years ago, each year players get bruises and sprains, and there is always a chance of more serious injuries.

“Student safety is my first priority,” Frank said in a statement. “The narrow window of time for student preparation and practice, and the limited availability of properly fitting safety equipment would put our students at risk.”

As for this year, Frank suggested the girls adopt flag football, but the girls wouldn’t consider it.

Thousands of other American high schools host flag powder-puff, a no-contact version in which girls stop their opponents by pulling flags off their belts, rather than wrestle them to the ground. But Florida schools already offer girls’ flag football as an interscholastic sport, and they said the equivalent of a class vs. class scrimmage would feel boring after 50 years of tackle.

For now, the game is over.

Jupiter alum Julie Wright, a local preschool director who played in the 1988 and 1989 games, said this year’s juniors and seniors are being deprived of some of their most vivid high school memories.

“It is nothing you can experience anywhere else. I don’t remember the pep rallies or the shows we had at school. I couldn’t tell who did what. But powder-puff, I remember,” Wright said. “It is an enjoyable tradition that doesn’t cause anyone any harm.”