Canada v. USA in historic girl’s “Battle of the Border” club team challenge – Part 2

For the first time ever, an international match between two girl’s tackle football leagues took place in Mooresville, Indiana. The Indiana Girls Tackle Football League (IGTFL) hosted the North Winnipeg Nomads of the Manitoba Girls Football Association (MGFA) from Canada. One game was between Junior teams made up of girls in grades 4 through 8, and the second Senior game saw girls in grades 10 through 12 playing each other.

The storms predicted for Mooresville, a suburb of Indianapolis, held off for the Junior game between girls from Indiana and Canada. However, not long after the Winnipeg Nomads had defeated the girls from the Indiana Girls Tackle Football League 33-31, that changed.

The rain and lightning did nothing to help the chances when the Senior players from the Indiana Girls Tackle Football League faced the North Winnipeg Nomads, along with other players from the Manitoba Girls Football Association. The IGTFL had only been in existence for two years, and they were facing a team with several players who had been playing football for nearly a decade.

Players from both sides were excited to be playing in this historic first international meeting between teams composed of high school girls. The Nomads had already experienced international travel to play football, which included a 2014 game during the Independent Women’s Football Alliance finals, and was reportedly the first game in which all participants – coaches, officials, and players – were female. The girls representing the IGTFL were much less experienced, and a bit nervous when they saw the number of girls who traveled from Canada to play them. Forty two players made the trip from Canada, and thirty four from Indiana waited to play against them, with both sides nearly evenly split between juniors and seniors.

The only advantage that the IGTFL players had was that they had so far garnered more press, including a story in the Wall Street Journal. Lisa Zueff Cummings, one of the managers of the Nomads, mentioned that even when the team made up of players from the MGFA traveled to play in North Carolina, most of the people in their association did not know that the event occurred.

The Nomads came out fast and scored on an apparent touchdown by Sherisa Gretsinger, but a penalty negated that, and the Indiana girls held. The score remained 0-0 for quite some time, as a strong storm cell with lightning swept into the area and caused a long delay. When play resumed, the temperature, which had been in the mid sixties at game start, had dropped 15 degrees, adding cold to the conditions players and fans faced. But on the first play after the delay, with 2:04 left in the first quarter, Kaity Cummings scored on a quarterback keeper, and when Julianna Raposo made the uncontested kick for the PAT, the score was 8-0.

During the second quarter, the Canadians scored again when Ashanti Tshiovo took a double reverse hand off and ran the ball in for the score. Raposo added the PAT, and the score was 14-0 in favor of the visitors. Tshiovo rumbled through most of the Indiana defense around five minutes later, and after the conversion by Raposo, the score stood at 21-0.

Alexis Ervin of the IGTFL got the Americans on the board when she scored from her own territory on a long run to make the score 21-6 when the conversion attempt failed. That would be the only score for the Indiana team.

The Nomads scored three more times in the second half with Sherisa Gretsinger, Aiyana Hart, and Hannah Stewart adding touchdowns to the Canadian total. The lack of a kicking game by the IGTFL could have hurt them even more, but the Canadians agreed to take that one off the board.

The final score was 40-6 in favor of the visitors, but even though the Indiana team went down in defeat, they still had made history and earned the respect of their opponents. One Nomad coach commented that the IGTFL team had showed “good technique,” and that it was “obvious they had been working hard” at learning the game.

Nomad Head Coach Dennis Radlinsky:

” The North Winnipeg Nomads and the Manitoba Girls Football Association are grateful to be able to give these young ladies an international football experience of a lifetime. Being ambassadors from Manitoba, it was a priority to reach out and create long term bonds with the Indiana girls tackle football community. As coaches and leaders in the game, we are very encouraged by our overall development of our players and the state of girls tackle football in Winnipeg.”

Historic first international game

This was the first game ever between teams made up of middle and high school girls played internationally, and so this might be the start of even more games between the various girls tackle football leagues.

At least two other such leagues exist, one in Utah, and another, the New Brunswick Junior Girls Football League, plays on the East Coast of Canada.

Florida has nearly 200 girls high school teams playing flag football, and perhaps they will one day field tackle teams as well. So this game may serve as a spur for more chances for girls to experience the thrill of representing their leagues and nations. These athletes like to hit, their parents like to see them play, especially fathers who thought the might never coach one of their children, and as Zueff Cummings, one of the creators of the MGFA said in an interview, “girls should have the opportunity to play before they are thirty or forty.”

These American and Canadian girls took that opportunity, and despite the final scores, they moved the ball ahead for other girls who might one day play.

Russ Crawford
Russ Crawford is an Associate Professor of History at Ohio Northern University in Ada, OH. The University of Nebraska Press published his book Le Football: The History of American Football in France in 2016. He is currently working on a project exploring the history of women's football.
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