It has been an interesting couple of years when it comes to the Samaha Bowl. Most people recognize it as the premier powder puff event, the annual competition between Sheehan and Lyman Hall high schools in Wallingford that is about to start, on Wednesday, its second half century.
There were a couple of inspirations behind starting what was to become a tradition of girls taking the field for flag football. Judy Samaha, a physical education teacher and coach, was coming to a new school, Sheehan High. She was looking for ways to promote a school identity and also looking to promote female athletics. Now her namesake competition is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as any in the local area.
The coronavirus took a swipe at powder puff but couldn’t take it down. Lyman Hall and Sheehan faced off in May of 2021. Lyman Hall won its fifth straight victory on that warm spring day, but it was close. “We could never have expected such an exciting game after such a disjointed year,” said Wallingford Mayor William W. Dickinson Jr., who awarded the trophy “You have brought it all together.”
So there were two Samaha Bowl games in 2021. The one in November was the 50th anniversary game. Also included was an alumni game.
“The tradition just continues growing every year,” said Nicole Connolly, who’d participated in the alumni game and who called Samaha, who died in 2020, “a wonderful coach, wonderful mentor for any of the girls.”
“You can build relationships and bonds with girls that you never would have thought you’d have a friendship with,” Connolly told the Record-Journal. “You come out with a lot (more) closeness with your entire senior class. Almost like a last hurrah.”
The 51st Samaha Bowl takes place Wednesday, set for 2:30 p.m. at Lyman Hall. Tonight, the teams are scheduled to participate in the motorcade.
“People along the route, everybody comes outside their house and they are blowing air horns and yelling in the streets,” said Lyman Hall’s co-head coach Stephanie Lavado. “It’s kind of something out of a movie.”
It’s also a winning tradition. Here’s to another 50 years.