Regina defeats Marian in annual powderpuff football game

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published September 21, 2015


STERLING HEIGHTS — When the senior students of Regina and Marian high schools ran onto Phillip E. Runkel Field at Sterling Heights Stevenson Sept. 19, a decades-long tradition continued.

Since 1981, the all-girls Catholic schools have competed in an annual powderpuff football game bringing together students, staff, alumni and families. Fans in the mood for some fierce football competition cheered, stomped their feet and did the “wave” from the bleachers — some with painted faces, others with colorful headwear and outfits.

With excitement setting the tone, this year’s game put the Regina Sharks back on top as they defeated Marian 21-12. In powderpuff, the players don’t wear pads, and instead of tackling, the athletes pull flags from their opponents.

Regina is located in Warren, and Marian is in Bloomfield Hills. This year’s event hit a milestone for Regina by marking the school’s 50th powderpuff game. Regina, formerly located in Harper Woods, played other schools before it just became Regina vs. Marian 34 years ago.

The players — all 12th-graders — on each team take the game so seriously that they began practicing in July. Marian senior Shannon Ryan has looked forward to participating in powderpuff since her freshman year.

“It’s a big deal,” she said. “It’s a bonding experience.”

“It’s something we do as one school,” teammate Samantha Schilling said. “We’re also closer now.”

Ryan, a cornerback, and Schilling, a defensive tackle, wished the game’s outcome had been different.

“We practiced for nine weeks. We were very prepared,” Ryan said. “We tried our hardest.”

“We gave it our all,” Schilling added.

Regina Dad’s Club President Paul Turkal, whose daughter Karleigh will play in next year’s game, was among the powderpuff co-coordinators on the field to offer support.

“It’s huge. It’s just been tradition. People have been tailgating since yesterday,” he said on game day. “The girls play one game for all the bragging rights for the following year.”

The winning team also receives a traveling team trophy — a golden football. According to Turkal, just having one game per year makes it a true rivalry.

Rick Copland, assistant head of school at Marian, was on-site to cheer on the Mustangs along with many other school staff.

“The whole school is involved,” Copland said. “It’s a great bonding thing for the senior class. They know a lot about football when they’re done. They know what’s going on.”

Marian junior Marie Kassa and many of her classmates wore costumes and cheered from the stands.

“It’s fun. It’s different,” said Kassa, dressed as a ketchup bottle. “We’ve been doing this for a long time. It’s the only football game we have. It’s a big deal.”

Instead of playing football, senior Chloe Rifat was among a small group of Marian students who, as cheerleaders, pumped up the crowd. She said the annual event “means a lot.”

“It’s a huge part of senior year. I’m having an awesome time,” she said. “It brings everyone together, especially the freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The school is always real alive this time of year.”

Regina offensive tackle Kendall Graves could hear the roar of the crowd during the game. Other times it was just her and her own quiet thoughts concentrating on the moment. She was all smiles as Regina celebrated its win on the field.

“It was really exciting hearing them cheer you,” she said, adding that her teammates were “dedicated.”

“When I first got to Regina I wanted powderpuff so bad as a freshman. I will remember this for the rest of my life.”

The powderpuff event was a family affair for Regina student Amie Braciszewski and her sisters Meghan (’08), Emily (’10), and Claire (’13), all graduates of the school.

“It’s a nice bond. Regina is demonstrating their sisterhood,” said their mom, Debbie Braciszewski, of Shelby Township. “My parents were here. Amie’s godparents were here.”

Cecelia Vaughn, Regina class of 2007, came out to support her sister Audrey Vaughn, who was among the star players on the field.

“It’s nice to see the school spirit. My sister was so excited,” Vaughn said. “Everyone’s cheering and happy.”

To get ready for the game, both schools held pep rallies Sept. 18.  Jillian Wagner, a 2006 Regina graduate, attended the rally at her alma mater.

“It was such an energy and just pride for your school. It was just really cool to see the girls in their state of mind,” she said. “Your class grows so much through powderpuff.”

Wagner enjoyed her years at Regina, as did Vaughn.

“It was a small school,” Vaughn said. “You got really involved and active. There was a good sense of community.”