MELISSA – On a breezy, bright afternoon at Cardinal Stadium, fans gathered expectantly for Melissa’s annual Powder Puff Football Championship, a spirited spring tournament that features Melissa High School’s four classes of girls clashing for a coveted gridiron title.
Now in their 10th year, these all-pass/no-run, two-hand-touch games consist of two 15-minute halves played on a 50-yard field. Veteran Powder Puff referee — and Melissa football’s defensive coordinator — Travis Roberson roamed the field again this year, keeping a tight rein on the action, along with assistant referees Josh Gilbert and Jacob Alford. (Before the games began, rumors spread that the Seniors would win by way of a peanut butter cookie pay-off to Roberson, though this could not be confirmed.)
The girls’ teams were ably coached by Melissa varsity football players and other Cardinal athletes.
On hand as PA announcer was acclaimed Melissa senior Taner Bigbee, who provided gripping play-by-play and keen social commentary — in a voice that may only be described as a disturbing mix of Snoop Dogg and George W. Bush. Bigbee and a press-box sidekick also chirped throughout the contests at coaches, students — even dogs — stationed on the sidelines.
The Juniors prevailed on the field this day, romping past the Seniors 36-6 in the championship match. Receiver Natalia Cox led the winners with three touchdown catches. Juniors co-head coach Marvin Jordan said the victory was due to “hard work and dedication” put in by the girls.
“They went out there, they tried their best and that’s all we could ask for,” Jordan said. “When you try your best, you just come out with wins, man.”
On a troubling note, Jordan revealed that “Coach (Gilbert) said if I would have ordered him a pizza, we would’ve won automatically.”
Another juniors co-head coach, Cole McCraw, noted that the win should mean more job offers for this staff.
“We already got some job offers from last year,” McCraw said. “I think this will just seal the deal.”
Things got so bad for the Seniors that Juniors co-head coach Tate Whittington convinced senior track star Maddie Kane, who had strolled up with her dog, to take the field. Kane did so, but without an official jersey or any shoes. Roberson sprung into action, forcing her to don a jersey — but he let the shoes slide. With 4:45 left to play, Kane took off barefoot on an illegal 30-yard touchdown run, the Seniors’ lone score. As the Juniors coaches howled at the infraction, Roberson replied, “I didn’t see it.”
In their semifinal match-up, the Juniors topped the Sophomores, 20-8. The Seniors edged the Freshmen 19-18 in their semifinal game, but the ending was marred by controversy. With the Freshmen at the Seniors’ goal line as time ran down, Roberson correctly declared the game over due to an earlier clock miscue.
“They cheated,” Freshmen head coach Brendon Lewis said. “We were better than them. I’m going to take it to court.”
Before the game, Sophomores head coach Kennedy Lewis offered a glimpse into his team’s preparation and mindset. “I expect a ‘dub,’” he said. “No one out here can hold us.” (“That’s a good answer,” said assistant coach Jaylyn Jones.) “I expect the best of their abilities on the field. I want them to pursue their goal, and that’s a championship win.” Lewis then revealed details of his staff’s scouting report. “We know that the Juniors have nobody. They got nobody.”
At the conclusion of the day’s contests, Roberson said he’d never witnessed a more exciting Powder Puff occasion. “It was amazing. But it was not a very big crowd for the championship game. A lot of people left.” Indeed, much like the NCAA Final Four, the hottest ticket appeared to be for the semifinal games. The crowd had dissipated for the championship contest — plus it was dinner time.
Roberson sought to end speculation that the fix was, and always has been, in for the Seniors, stating forcefully, “Seniors are not going to win ‘no matter what’ — even if they bring me peanut butter cookies.” He also alluded to his controversial no-call on Kane’s illegal TD dash. “They were getting beat 36-to-nothing,” he said, “so I had to give them a little love and didn’t throw the flag on that play.”
In the end, Roberson noted what this day was all about. “It’s just cool for them to get to play a sport that the boys play in our home stadium in front of a pretty good crowd. They have fun.”
No question about that. The event appeared to be fun — for everyone.