WALLINGFORD — With less than a week until the 51st Samaha Bowl, Lyman Hall and Sheehan powder puff teams are preparing for the game.
The annual tradition of the powder puff game consists of senior girls from Lyman Hall and Sheehan high schools competing in a flag football game the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.
The game is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday at Lyman Hall.
Leading up to the game, both teams will be holding scrimmages against their school’s faculty members to prepare. On Tuesday evening both teams will participate in the annual motorcade. Sheehan’s starts at 5 p.m.,while Lyman Hall’s begins at 6 p.m.
“It’s a police escort thing,” said Stephanie Lavado, co-head coach of the Lyman Hall powder puff team. “When I mean the whole town, the whole town … People along the route, everybody comes outside their house and they are blowing air horns and yelling in the streets. It’s kind of something out of a movie”
Lyman Hall’s team has around 84 members, while Cheryl Colwick, head coach of the Sheehan team, said her team has 85 players and managers. Both started practicing last month.
For Sheehan, the participation is strong. Colwick said about 90% of the senior class at Sheehan participate, with about 60 boys joining the powder puff cheerleading team.
Lavado said the participation at Lyman Hall is a little under what she and Marion Kish, co-head coach of the Lyman Hall team, anticipated.
“I totally understand that there’s some high-level athletes that didn’t want to risk their seasons that didn’t participate, there’s some people with some medical concerns that didn’t participate,” Lavado said. “... It’s a lot of work and it’s a big time commitment.”
With the high percentage of participation and the excitement of the cross-town rivalry, Colwick said
Wallingford’s powder puff tradition is “unmatched anywhere else.”
The game averages around 3,000 spectators each year. It is named in memory of Judy Samaha, Sheehan’s former athletic director who died July of 2020.
“Judy Samaha really believed in equality amongst women and men within athletics and she really fought for this as an extra opportunity,” Lavado said.
Colwick took over as head coach for the Sheehan team in 1995. Both Lavado and Kish went to Sheehan and played on the powder puff team, which Colwick coached.
“We understand the history of the game and we just wanted to give the girls the same opportunity that we grew up having,” Lavado said.
While the Titans have not won a powder puff game in about six years, Colwick said winning is not the reason she became the head coach of the team. For Colwick, it’s about the tradition and the community coming together.
“The rivalry is so strong, but we’re still the Town of Wallingford,” Colwick said.
Colwick has players that have watched many of their family members — mother, aunt, cousin, sister, grandmother — participate in powder puff, which encourages them to want to continue the townwide tradition.
“I didn’t have to do anything when I took over for Judy,” Colwick said. “I am just continuing the tradition.”
A big moment is when the team members are presented with their powder puff shirt, which for Sheehan was scheduled to happen Sunday. Colwick told her players they have to earn their shirt, which means they have to attend eight of the ten practices.
Lavado said that Lyman Hall players have received their shirts and they made sure to make it a big deal for the girls.
“We just made it a special moment because not every kid’s name is going to get read during the game, not every person is going to pull a flag or make a big play but at least for that night it was a big deal,” Lavado said.
Once the girls have their shirts, Colwick said that she tells them there is still work to be done.
“When you’re on the field, you have to give it your all,” Colwick said.
While the game is just between senior girls at both schools and the cheerleaders are the senior boys, Lavado said it is a whole school event.
“It’s nice to see the communities of the schools come together,” Lavado said.