Girls Flag Football steps into the spotlight as Lansdale Catholic wins the inaugural Eagles Girls Flag Football League of Philadelphia Championship. Standout player Caitlin Quinn landed a full athletic scholarship to play girls flag football at Cottey College
LANSDALE: For a number of years there has been an attempt to start girls tackle football, mostly at a club level.
While the passion was there, the tackle game for girls has never gained much momentum.
The biggest advancement with girls playing football has been with several girls who made it onto the field as kickers in the boys’ game.
Girls’ flag football has been around for a long time as well, but with little fanfare…until now.
Girls’ flag football is gaining real momentum nationally almost every day.
Recently the Philadelphia Eagles hosted the inaugural season of the Eagles Girls Flag Football League of Philadelphia.
Lansdale Catholic defeated South Philadelphia 13-0 in the championship game held at Lincoln Financial Field.
Want some credibility? Championship co-MVP Caitlin Quinn, a senior at Lansdale Catholic, has been awarded an athletic scholarship to attend Cottey College, a private women's college in Nevada, Missouri and founded by Virginia Alice Stockard in 1884. Quinn, who plays wide receiver and defensive back for the Crusaders, will be joining a program that is obviously being aggressive in developing girls’ flag football as a viable sports program. “I think by taking the pads off, they can show off the same skills the boys have in tackle (football), you’re just not tackling,” Lansdale Catholic head coach Mike Reimel said in a recent interview at the Quinn family home in Lansdale. “They are running the same routes and catching passes. You still have to have a game plan. You still have to know how to play defense. Instead of tackling, you can pull a flag now.” Quinn said she has been playing sports at Lansdale Catholic since she arrived four years ago. She played basketball her first three years at Lansdale Catholic and ran track her freshman year. For track she didn’t have much of a choice. “Basically, it was because of COVID,” she said. “Then I tore my ACL so I couldn’t run track anymore. “I’ve played (flag) football before,” Quinn continued. “I played in a boys’ recreational league when I was like four or five. I played with boys until maybe eighth grade. Then my parents started a league called Athena Athletics, named after the Greek Goddess of Wisdom and War.” Quinn said she and her sisters Kara and Krista continued to play for Athena and eventually approached Lansdale Catholic about starting a team and play an independent schedule to get things going.
THE REIMEL BROTHERS NEVER STOPPED DEVELOPING FLAG FOOTBALL-BOYS AND GIRLS
At the same time Caitlin’s mother Katie was developing the Athena Athletics All Girls Flag Football program, Reimel and his brother Matt were already expanding the sport on the national level.
Mike had played flag most of his life as did Matt. Matt has ascended to becoming the national flag tournament director for the NFL. Mike started his own league not long ago.
“I played football until eighth grade; then I had to get a job,” Reimel said. “I’ve been playing flag football at the Boys and Girls Club in Lansdale since I was six years old and up until I was 18. My brother and I started coaching flag football after that. My brother is actually the NFL national flag football tournament director. He’s been running flag football tournaments since I was 18 (Mike is now 32 years old). I helped him out for a while and now I own my own company called “Flag Football Life.” We run flag football tournaments all over the country.”
Last year, Reimel said he received a call from his brother asking if he could help out at a jamboree at the Linc where the new uniforms for the Eagles 16-team tournament were being unveiled.
According to Reimel, there were some flag football scrimmage games being played at the event, so it was natural the Birds tapped the Reimel brothers.
That was in March, 2022. It was after that day at the Linc, Reimel received a call from Lansdale Catholic asking if wanted to coach the Crusaders.
“They knew we had been supporting females in flag football for the last ten years,” Reimel said. “So I stepped up and accepted the position. I had known a lot of the girls from the Athena Travel team since they were young. I didn’t want to let them down as female flags and trailblazers.”
QUINN AND HER FAMILY WERE ALSO ALL IN WITH FLAG Quinn talked about why she likes flag football and how she got started. “It’s a very different sport,” Quinn said during the interview at her family home. “It’s very rare to see a girl play football because it is so male dominated. It’s just different and football is a very different sport than anything else. It has a real family vibe to it.” By family vibe, Quinn explained, was more about the fraternal aspect that football has been known for. Quinn said she, her sisters and her club friends convinced school officials to let them form a team. “Me and a couple of other girls just got it this year,” Quinn said. “It’s not officially a Catholic League sport yet. But there are a couple of Catholic League schools with teams.” Quinn said Archbishop Wood of Bucks County plus Philadelphia schools Archbishop Ryan and St. Hubert are fielding teams. According to Quinn, Reimel and an Eagles official, the PIAA wants 100 schools to formally start flag football teams in order for the Pennsylvania governing body to recognize it as a varsity sport.
RIGHT PLACE AT THE RIGHT TIME TO LAND A SCHOLARSHIP
While working to get her high school to sponsor a team, and rehabbing her ACL, Quinn said she sent film to several colleges around the country of her days playing for Athena’s travel team, a squad that was known to take trips to play in tournaments.
“During the COVID shutdown, the NAIA colleges got flag (football) at their schools,” Quinn said. “I just sent out a bunch of film from the travel team at Athena Athletics.
“I sent film to the schools, with all my athletic background listed. A couple of schools got back to me and I got a couple of offers.”
Quinn received her scholarship offer from Cottey College and a few other schools as well. She said she received offers or serious interest from Milligan University of Johnson City, Tennessee (NAIA), Tiffin University, Division II in Tiffin, Ohio, Midland University Fremont, Nebraska (NAIA) and a few Junior Colleges. The Comets compete in the Colonial Athletic Conference of the NAIA. Quinn may be catching passes from someone from the Philly area. Emily Kane was a freshman quarterback and defensive back in 2021 and is from Morrisville, PA and Pennsbury High School. Quinn revealed how Cottey coaches thought she would be a good fit to play for them. Quinn said she crossed paths with Cottey coaches Matt Harder and Madeline Culbertson at one of those tournaments. “I was at a tournament last year, but I had torn my ACL, I was at the tournament just cheering my team on from the sidelines,” Quinn recalled. “The coach came up to me and was like ‘we think you have a great attitude, it seems you are a great leader. We think you should come play with us.” Quinn said that’s when they offered her the scholarship. Flag football has been around for decades…but full college scholarships? Does Quinn feel like a trailblazer in that regard? “I hope so,” she said with a laugh, then talked about how she is passing the torch to younger girls already. “We have a recreation league for Athena II; I coach four to eight-year olds. Seeing their growth and seeing how many girls that actually come out Sunday mornings at 8:00 AM to play flag football. It’s been crazy.” CHAMPIONSHIP GAME AND MORE In the championship game, Lansdale Catholic defeated South High School 13-0 at the Lincoln Financial Field on May 7. Quinn scored on a touchdown pass from Bridget Keyser. . Extra points are interesting. There is no kicking for extra points. If your team scores a touchdown, the scoring team can run a play from the three-yard line for one point, two points from the ten-yard line and three points from the 20. The Eagles tournament is considered to be the first legitimate championship for girls’ flag football. “It’s a pilot program,” Reimel said. “There were 16 teams this year. Next year we hope to double it. My goal is to help out as much as I can, and in two years, get 100 schools on board to make it an official PIAA sport.” Reimel paused and said out loud in Quinn's living room. “Lansdale Catholic is the first ever Pennsylvania Champion.” Reimel said opening doors for more high school students to get funding to go to college makes girls flag football so important. “It gives girls an opportunity to play another sport in college,” Reimel said. “They don’t have to go the traditional route of soccer, softball and basketball. They can play football, the same sport their father and brothers played growing up and go to college, get money, go to college for free, play a sport that is high level and competitive.” South Philadelphia head coach Synae Williams also talked about the importance of getting scholarships for flag football and about her commitment to develop the sport and the opportunities that come with it.
“I thought it was very important for these girls to play flag football and grow the sport,” said Williams. “The only way for the sport to continue to grow is to get young girls to get involved. It’s another sport for them to get a scholarship in and get into college for free. It was a n-brainer for me to get involved.”
Reimel said more people will be finding out how much fun girls flag football can be.
“I think it’s opened up and it’s a different, exciting game and it’s entertaining. If you are a football fan you should love it.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org