Powder Puff label doesn't do justice to Loyola women Homecoming: Annual football game puts lacrosse players on their mettle and lets men strut as cheerleaders. And even cold weather doesn't deter them.

November 15, 1997|By Dan Morse | Dan Morse,SUN STAFF

Krystin Porcella proved a central truth last night about the annual Powder Puff Football Game at Loyola College: When you have students who also play on the second-best women's lacrosse team in the nation, let them run with the ball.

On a sneak reverse play, Porcella broke the game open with a 30-yard run down the sidelines.

L "I just got the ball and ran," said a jubilant Porcella, 21.

Led by its lacrosse players, the team of senior women once again beat the junior women in the annual flag-football game, which began six years ago as a homecoming attraction for a college with no football team.

The annual Powder Puff now attracts more than 200 players, at least that many fans and about a dozen cross-dressing cheerleaders.

"It is our fall football classic," said Mark Broderick, director of student activities at Loyola.

Last night, an estimated 250 fans braved bitter cold to watch the game, which the seniors won by two touchdowns after breaking the game open with Porcella's run.

At the beginning of the first half, two students wearing only undershorts raced across the field. In the stands, junior David Capen was unimpressed.

"Last year we had a complete streaker," he said.

Athletically speaking, the 145-year-old Jesuit college is known nationally for its top-10 lacrosse teams -- men's and women's.

Give Loyola a little football -- even seven-person-per-side flag football -- and the school takes it quite seriously. One college administrator said the term Powder Puff hardly does justice to the efforts on the field. He wants to change the name to something with a little more edge.

Junior and senior class leaders hang banners all over campus. The all-male coaching staffs generally number about 12. For this year's game, the seniors held daily practices for two weeks, the juniors for 1 1/2 weeks.

Last night, after several players crashed into the sidelines, coach Kevin Dillon said, "It's getting nasty around here."

But for the most part, the game was wholesome -- with the exception of the appearance of the male cheerleaders.

"Basically, it's a bunch of guys cross-dressing," head junior cheerleader Brendon Doyle explained before the game.

One of his colleagues, Mike Cannizzaro, arrived wearing a T-shirt that said, "Cheerleaders rock my world."

Cross-dressing cheerleaders didn't go over so well at Powder Puff football games at Los Angeles high schools eight years ago.

School officials determined the all-male cheerleaders violated Title IX, a federal law that bans schools from discriminating on the basis of sex. The squads were outlawed, and the games themselves faded away.

"We decided it's no real fun if the guys can't dress up as girls," high school senior Paul Geller told the Los Angeles Times.

Powder Puff football games are played in high schools across the nation. Most large colleges have female intramural flag football leagues, said Natalie Kovac, the assistant executive director of the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association, based in Corvallis, Ore.

But she said the size of the Loyola event make it fairly unusual.

At Loyola, preparations for the game began weeks in advance, when the coaching staffs drew up playbooks that were accorded all the secrecy of test results of a Psych midterm. The juniors alone had 10 offensive plays and four defensive sets.

Coaches traditionally go over basic rules -- sometimes with the help of Monday night football on a large-screen television -- at the first practice. Senior offensive linewoman Ann Spalatin, a political science and French major, acknowledged she had a limited command of football fundamentals.

"I knew there were four downs and on the last one you run or punt, I guess," she said.

Powder Puff rules insist blockers keep their hands close. No pushing. Thus a key techniques is the "crab block," whereby a player drops on all fours with the express purpose of leg entanglement.

"The key to blocking," said junior coach Frank Macchio, who played high-school football, "is the ability to be actively annoying."

The game -- and all the practices -- have left a lasting impression on Spalatin. While watching television recently, she stopped channel-surfing at the sight of a Virginia Tech football game.

"I found myself actually watching a game!" said Spalatin, who bailed out after 20 minutes. "I said, 'This is too much. I'm turning into a guy.' "

Pub Date: 11/15/97

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