Thursday, June 23, 2011


Saturday morning, June 18, 2011 started as an overcast and cool day. This weather would be perfect for the upcoming football game, pitting the Santa Ana Police Department Hogs against the Long Beach Police Department Sirens. As early morning turned into mid-morning, the sun came out and the temperature started rising. A few posts were placed on Facebook by some of the players and fans and there was the usual exchange between Head Coach Tony Lopez and myself, going over last minute game plans and ideas. This is almost a tradition with us before every game we have coached in the last four years.

We were all meeting at Darlene Wigmore's house at 1030, so we could caravan as a team to the field. I got to her house at 1030 and some of the players were already there. They were in the backyard, standing in a loose circle. There was some talk between the players but it all was in subdued tones. I looked around and I could tell that each and everyone of them was a time bomb ready to go off. They were itching to go. I spoke with Jacqui Parkhill and she said "I am so nervous I have butterflies." I told her, "that's good, that means you're ready." And in perfect Jacqui fashion, she says, "I need to shoot a beer to take the edge off." You gotta love her.

We had about nine vehicles in this caravan, so we were quite a site when we pulled up to the player's parking at Eddie West Field. The Santa Ana cadets tried their best to corral this caravan but we basically said, "We're coming in and we don't need your help." Liz Griffith jumped out of her vehicle and started doing her best Dodger Stadium parking lot attendant impression. She was lining vehicles up in spots and doing a great job of directing traffic. She just needed a straw hat and one of those flashlights with the orange cone attached.

After we took care of our parking problem, we headed to the field. We got ourselves situated in our locker room, the coaches met with Santa Ana's coaches and we brought the team out onto the field for warm-ups. As we got to our sideline, Tony Lopez gave his one rule for warm-ups, "Don't look at them, they look at us." I got them lined up for warm-ups and I could tell they were all nervous. I took a quick look at the Santa Ana team warming up and they were warming up in a library. I decided, it's a beautiful quiet Saturday morning, we need to take out Mr. Whistle and make some noise. The whistle blew for the first exercise and it was on. The team started talking, getting pumped and basically causing a commotion. We were letting Santa Ana know that Long Beach was in the house.

We went through our basic pre-game run throughs and now it was time to return to the locker room for some reflection. The coaching staff let the team be by themselves and over the past few weeks the coaches were telling them, NO HORSEPLAY!!!!  Like all police officers, we think that these statements are for someone else.....Names will be not mentioned but horseplay ensued and I will leave it at that. We were 15 minutes away from gametime and the coaches entered the locker room for the pre-game pep talk. You could tell that each and every one of these players were like caged tigers and they needed to let loose. I decided to wing an inspirational speech and by the time it was over, the whole team was in the middle of the locker room, jumping and screaming and acting like a football team that was ready to go. We hit the field and it was just about game time.

Our four captains. Ana Gill, Darlene Wigmore, Chanel Kirk and Liz Griffith met the Santa Ana captains at mid-field. Santa Ana won the toss and they deferred. The ball was ours. After four months of practices and scrimmages, we are now onto the real thing.

The offense took the field, we had scripted the first five plays, with no huddle, just so we could get into a rhythm and not allow their defense to adjust. Their defense placed two players in three point stances and they were on top of our quarterback, Ana Gill in no time. During some of the earlier coaches meetings, we were told that there were no three point stances. We never taught our team the three point stance, just the two point stance. We tried to get the attention of the refs to remind them of this rule. The refs tuned our coaching staff out and Santa Ana continued to rush using the three point stance. Needless to say, we went three plays with no gain. Our punt team came on. Jacqui Parkhill is our punter and she can boot it. She booted an end over end punt just short of the other teams' punt returner. The Santa Ana player could not control the punt and we recovered the fumble. Our coaching staff wanted all fumbles to be live and we fought for that rule because we knew our team was tougher and the fumbled punt proved it. We now had the ball back and our offense took the field. We still did not have our rhythm but we were not worried.

We watched Ana Gill in practice and we knew that she had what it takes to lead an offense. She sees the whole field and knows where everyone is supposed to be. She runs the offense like an orchestra conductor. With her ability, her leadership skills and her overall athleticsm, she was the perfect candidate for quarterback. On any other team Rachel Frausto would be starting as quarterback. She has a rocket for an arm and gets the ball downfield like it's nobodies business. Rachel did a bang up job lining up as a running back, protecting Ana from the Santa Ana rush.

Santa Ana struck first but our defense was showing signs that they were going to have a big day. When Santa Ana scored, our defense denied the extra point. Santa Ana went up 6-0. Our offense now started to click. We adjusted to what they were showing on defense and we spread the ball out over our exceptionally talented receivers.

Over the next two quarters, we exchanged touchdowns with Santa Ana. Our team was able to score two extra points, while our defense denied Santa Ana of their conversions. During a few of our first half drives, some highlight catches were made. Chanel Kirk did a magic act by grabbing a pass that was behind her and behind the back of the defender. She did this all with one hand. Maria Clay did her imitation of Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X. Her and the defender were falling to the ground and Maria tipped it once, tipped it twice and hauled it in. Our center Liz Griffith was completely uncovered on most plays and our quarterback Ana Gill used Liz as an outlet to keep drives alive and punch some conversions in. DQ made a number of big catches and gains. DQ was a bit hobbled but she is a trooper and still played well. Darlene Wigmore was doing everything, catching, defending, tackling and running. The only thing she wasn't doing was selling peanuts in the stands.

At the end of the half we were up 14-12.

The second half was a defensive struggle. Santa Ana changed their rushing scheme, which made us adjust and lose a receiver. We went back and forth but Long Beach's defense was putting on a show for the crowd.
Lori Peck made a beautiful diving interception, which stalled a Santa Ana drive. Darlene Wigmore came up with big sacks at the right time.

Late in the fourth quarter, Santa Ana drove the ball to the five yard line. Our defense became very aggressive and after five downs (we took a real smart penalty to not allow a TD) we denied Santa Ana. Our team went nuts. We took over on downs with 1:46 left in the game. And because this was an exciting game that the crowd was loving, both teams were going to give then their money's worth. Santa Ana intercepted and eventually punched the ball in. Long Beach lost 18-14.

Long Beach played their hearts out and they walked off the field with their heads held high. It was a great game and the sad part was that someone had to lose, too bad it was us. All the players want a rematch and all the players just want to keep playing. This team is on the verge of being the team that sets the standard for female flag football.

I will speak for the whole coaching staff on this. We are all extremely proud of the Long Beach Sirens and it was an honor to have coached such a great group of athletes. There will be more football games to be played and it will be the Long Beach Sirens that everyone will have in their sites. Good work.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Coach Mark! Awesome write-up! Just goes to show what a GREAT job you coaches did! It really showed in how we played out there! - Dar