Gardena Serra defeats LB Poly for girls’ flag football title

they screamed. they cried. They hugged each other.

When a final pass was incomplete on Sunday afternoon and a 19-18 win over Long Beach Poly and the first-ever girls’ championship for Gardena Serra High Girls’ Flag Football clinched it, the Cavaliers let every drop of emotion pour from their hearts.

Good luck finding a post-game celebration in any sport that contained so much pure joy. Some of the girls struggled to catch passes early in the season, said Serra coach Monique Adams, and they became lightning-fast athletes in a matter of months. Some of them are like Serra’s Kaylah Holmes, who grew up with her brothers and has longed to play soccer since she was five.

It was a nice preview of the sheer excitement girls’ flag soccer can bring to California’s high schools this fall — if it is adopted by the CIF at a State Federation Council meeting on Friday.

“All the boys said girls can’t do anything,” said Holmes, who eventually got the game-winning touchdown. “But we did it. Undefeated.”

Serra emerged victorious from a 16-team field at Redondo Union High in the Sunday Championships for the League of Champions, a local girls’ flag football league sponsored by the Rams and Chargers in its second season. In an ironic twist, they faced Long Beach Poly in the final game, marking the birth of a new Serra Poly rivalry after years of legendary tackle football between program battles.

Serra football coach Scott Altenberg, who coached the team for a few months before handing the reins to Adams — coach of the pro women’s tackle team Los Angeles Legends — gave cues to the Cavaliers from the sidelines. Poly trainer Stephen Barbee coached the Jackrabbits from the opposite side. It was Altenberg vs. Barbee again in a different context.

“No matter what we do, we could play badminton,” Altenberg said of the Serra Poly showdown. “We were made to be rivals.”

The Cavaliers were trailing at halftime, players huddled together, some crying.

“We can’t fight with tears in our eyes!” cried a girl.

They staged a furious comeback, with Holmes, who also plays basketball, securing a short pass in the end zone to give Serra the final lead with a minute remaining.

Southern Section Council President Paula Hart Rodas has largely spearheaded the push to introduce flag football for girls at the high school level. In December 2021, she recalled presenting the CIF Southern California regional trophy to Gardena Serra after a narrow win over Long Beach Poly. And on Sunday afternoon in Redondo, she watched another branch of the rivalry grow.

“How crazy is it in our first little Super Bowl that it’s Poly-Serra … that’s what it’s about,” Rodas said. Gardena Serra defeats LB Poly for girls’ flag football title

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