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Spotlight on ERHS flag football: the rising sport taking LA by storm

Updated: Dec 12, 2023

Photos courtesy of Coach Wilkins

Eagle Rock High School’s pioneering all-girl flag football has been taking LAUSD by storm, rising to #3 in the entire city of Los Angeles. With a winning streak of 11-3, they’ve been surpassing nearby schools such as San Pedro and Franklin High School in their rise to the top of the charts. The team is headed by senior captains Zoe Lambino, Teiya Hermida, and Miriam Ramirez with the help of Coach Wilkins, truly a powerful dynamic as they take the challenges head-on.

Inspired by the connectedness and excitement of the Dust Bowl flag football event held last year, many girls on the team found themselves drawn to joining the official sport. Captain Zoe recounts her initial desire to play sparking in the 7th grade during the class of 2024’s peewee event (a miniature dustbowl game) in 2019. Being part of the official flag football sport is almost like a dream come true for her, as she fulfills the goals that she had back then. “In 8th grade, I was supposed to be the running back of that year’s Peewee bowl game, but unfortunately that didn’t happen because of Covid,” Zoe recounts. “So when the opportunity came to do flag football again this year, I’m getting to do what I always had wanted to do”.

For others, it’s their first time stepping onto the field. “This is my first year ever playing flag football and it’s definitely one of the best choices I’ve made,” says sophomore Katherine Guan. Her love and interest in football stemmed from watching her brother play on the very same field she’s familiarized herself with. “Ever since 8th grade, I’ve watched my brother play football and he’s one of the reasons why I joined the team.”

“I think that it's a really empowering thing for women in athletics,” says Zoe Lambino, on her initial inspiration to join flag football. She notices how most sports have male and female counterparts of one another… all except football. And now, with an introduction to a separate sport for girls, Zoe found herself drawn to join the team in order to challenge the stereotypical genders placed on sports and inspire others to do the same. In playing, these girls are not just breaking barriers; they are also redefining the rules of the game, no longer limited by their gender holding them back from playing in this male-dominated sport. “I feel like everyone has become more accepting of women playing masculine sports,” comments MarySol Jernigan, wide receiver, defensive corner, and 2nd quarterback of the team.

MarySol recounts one of her favorite moments on the field in their game against Bell High School, with back-to-back touchdowns and successful deep passes between herself and fellow team member Brooklyn Romero. Their win against San Pedro stands out to both her and Zoe as a highlight of their experience in flag football this season, especially since San Pedro has had their team for a longer amount of time. “It was daunting to go against a team with a lot more experience in the sport”, she says. “But I think our team really pulled together and everyone just played their game. By focusing on and knowing that we can do what we do best, we were able to beat them 28-6.” The careful and tenacious game against San Pedro really showcased their incredible skills as a team proving to themselves that they could prevail even when the odds seemed challenging.

The Eagle Rock High School flag football team!

If there was one word to describe the team, it would most definitely be passionate. With a team that leans towards the smaller side, it allowed the girls to form closer bonds with one another, sharing a desire to take the team really far. “This shared sense of passion for the sport is reflected in not only practices, but in games as well, and even in little things that we do”, Zoe says. She highlights fellow player Haylee Weatherspoon as a source of inspiration for her. “She has a great attitude in game-- she knows when to lock in and focus, and she’s always fun to be around. Her technical skills in running, juking, catching are always on point. It’s inspiring to see her go far and I feel like it motivates the rest of the team to try their best too.” The interconnectedness between the team members fosters an extremely motivating environment where all of their skills flourish together. Seeing them uplift one another during games and practices, and continue to do so even off the field shows just how tight-knit and supportive their group is.

To those looking to join flag football in the coming years, Zoe says “Go for it! Flag football as a sport is very representative of women empowerment in athletics, and so just getting on the field and doing your thing-- I feel like it's a very powerful statement about girls in sports.” MarySol offers advice to those looking to improve in the sport, encouraging the polishing of technique when using gloves and making sure to focus on technical ability and footwork. Flag football has been an incredible experience for her, so much so that she’s considering continuing it into college. “Being a part of the team and knowing that I have a team to support me even through my off days is amazing.” says MarySol, eternally grateful for the support her team has offered her through and through. She’s learned so much from being on the flag football team, one of the most notable lessons being how “I’ve learned to take my time” she says. “When I take my time and see my options, it helps us get further”, and she’s learned to apply this both on and off the field too. “Flag football has taught me a lot about trusting myself” adds Zoe. Learning to realize that you’re capable of things even when it seems daunting is an incredible lesson to learn, and flag football has taught her just that.

Eagle Rock’s first flag football team has proven to become a symbol of empowerment, resilience, and pure passion. These young women are not just athletes; they are trailblazers and role models inspiring the girls of the future. The field they play on is not just a football field; it's a battleground for gender equality, and it's where they're proving that women can excel in any arena they choose. Their determination serves as a beacon of hope and a reminder that we can change the world, one game at a time.

The Eagle Rock High School girl’s flag football team is currently in the CIF Open Division Quarterfinals. Wish them luck on their game against Franklin High School today!

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