AGAWAM — The annual Thanksgiving football game between the Agawam Brownies and the West Springfield Terriers has been a tradition for nearly 100 years. But there’s now a new football rivalry that is becoming a new Thanksgiving football tradition at AHS.

It’s the annual powderpuff football game between the junior and senior girls. The game is a variation of flag or touch football for young women. The timing of the game in Agawam has varied over the years. Sometimes it’s been played in the afternoon of the school’s half-day session before Thanksgiving, and other times it’s been played on a weekend near Thanksgiving.

In 2022, for the first time, it was played under the lights at Harmon Smith Field, where the varsity football team plays. This year, it also was played under the lights on the Tuesday evening before Thanksgiving.

Juniors and seniors enthusiastically faced off against each other, with the juniors hoping to ruin the winning record of the senior teams. However, the senior team prevailed again, winning 12-0.

But the point of the game is not winning or losing — it’s about having fun and benefiting a local food bank. Admission to the game was $5, but anyone who brought a can on non-perishable food item received a $2 discount.

Members of the school’s Helping Hands Club collected the canned goods, sold tickets and worked with Athletic Director Karen Gomez to handle logistics on game night. Spectators brought in 150 cans of food. That and $700 from ticket sales will help the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts restock its shelves for the holiday season.

English teacher Sable Johnson said this was the first year the club became involved in using the powderpuff game to help the food bank.

“We hope to make this a tradition at this game. It’s nice for the kids to get behind a good cause and have fun. They saw it as an opportunity to get more involved in the greater community,” she said.

Additionally, the school’s Football Booster Club donated its concession stand profits — about $60 — to the junior and senior classes.

“It was fun to watch us play — none of us knew how to play football.” said junior Julianna Warner. Like all the powderpuff players, she volunteered for the game. She said many grade 9 and 10 girls watch the game so they can play in upcoming years.

Senior player Emiley Bussiere-Sykes said spectators like watching the game because it’s a “fun spin” on football.

“It’s something you wouldn’t normally see on a regular basis. Along with everyone getting to have fun and participate, it’s a very carefree game,” she said.

Bussiere-Sykes said she’s been surrounded by her family’s interest in football her entire life.

“I also thought it would be a great opportunity for my boyfriend and I to switch roles,” she said. “I would get to play his position and he would get to coach me.”

The captain of the senior powderpuff team, Shane Typrowicz, a lineman for AHS Brownies football team, said his game plan was to get the players the ball “and let them make the best plays.” He said another part of his strategy was to get “as much practice time” as possible “to make sure the girls knew what to do on each side of the ball.”

Junior coach Michael Sibilia — captain, guard and defensive end for the Brownies — said his team had a “small disadvantage” since most of the senior players had an understanding of how the game works from playing it last year.

“It’s important to keep in mind that there’s more that goes into powderpuff than just showing up on game day and playing. The majority of the teams, including ours, held practices after school to prepare for the game,” he said. “But we only have a certain amount of time to find a best fit position for each player, install plays and teach them the rules of the game.”

Sibilia said he enjoyed being able to experience the sport from a different position by coaching the team.

“It’s also nice to see powderpuff teams play and enjoy the sport just like how our football team enjoys it,” he added. “Powderpuff is a tradition that’s been around for a long time — I’m glad that I could be a part of it this year.”

Powderpuff football started in the 1930s and is an annual fixture at many schools across the nation. The name “powderpuff” comes from an incident during a match in 1945 when players applied fresh makeup in jest during halftime in front of a surprised and amused audience.

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