The ETHS varsity football team will face Chicago’s Lane Tech Thursday evening at Lazier Field.
Sound normal? It will be anything but.
The game? Flag, not tackle. Seven on seven, not 11 on 11. And the players? ETHS girls competing in the first game of the first season of its kind since the school opened its doors in 1883.
“Girls have been craving for this,” said JV coach Carlton Rosemond, who works in operations at the school when he’s not also assisting varsity coach Luella Gesky, who teaches physical education.
‘Oh, we get to play in high school now.’
“They’ve been asking for the last couple years about powder puff games, ultimately just having an opportunity to play just one game [a year]. So now that buzz of them being able to play so many games and it’s like, ‘Oh, we get to play in high school now.’ ”
Indeed they do, starting with Thursday’s game against Lane, the first of a six-game schedule that moves to Saturdays through October after the first game. This year’s roster lists 36 players.
It’s a club game, not varsity – yet. But the participation numbers among schools and players have Gesky and Rosemond excited for the potential growth and how the Illinois High School Association could respond.
In Wednesday’s final tuneup before kickoff, coaches drilled plays and formations, reminding players of similarities to tackle football (yes, you can blitz) as well as the crucial differences (but you have to start seven yards off the line of scrimmage).
In addition to their flags, players wear nylon helmets covered in a camouflage pattern of light and dark blues, like a modern version of what’s on the Heisman Trophy.
And jerseys. Don’t forget the jerseys, which Gesky is allowing players to wear to school Thursday, just like the other football players. “They’re super excited,” she said.
While still finding their footing as they practiced on a 50-yard field striped into the outfield of the ETHS varsity baseball diamond, players frequently referred to their offensive and defensive playbooks on their wristbands and helped each other through the nuances as they talked on the sidelines.
Like any kind of football, broken plays can lead to big gains and costly turnovers.
“Nice job!” one player calls out after a particularly fruitful QB scramble.
The atmosphere is positive, loose, fun and intentional in learning and improving throughout. That was especially evident at the end of practice when, during a punt drill, a receiving team player decided to pass to a teammate in front of her. That’s not allowed in any kind of football.
Rosemond stopped practice to bring everyone together to go over the fundamentals. It’s near the end of a long, two-hour practice at the end of a month of practices. There’s only so much cramming a team can do before they just have to go play.
Heading into Thursday’s first game, coaches have an idea what triumph looks like, no matter what the scoreboard might show when the clock hits zero.
“I feel like a win is that it’s competitive … and that they feel more confident about what they know and are able to do,” Gesky said.
“The city teams started last year, so the team we’re playing is in their second year,” Gesky said.
‘A win for me is pretty simple’
“A win for me is pretty simple: The girls have fun,” Rosemond said. “I want them to enjoy the moment.”
Gesky ends practice by reminding players to visualize the game as they navigate the school day.
“See yourself doing great things. See yourself being successful,” she said.
You can see for yourself Thursday. The varsity team kicks off at 5:30 p.m. at Lazier, with the JV game to follow at 6:30 p.m.
And it will save you the drive all the way to Palatine to see the school’s other football team.
Editor’s note: This story has updated to correct the varsity and JV game times.