Monthly Archives: March 2004

Women ready for some football

The Brooklyn Paper

During the workweek she litigates; on weekends,she crushes bones. Lawyer jokes aside, Lynn Lewis, the 175-pound lawyer cum linebacker for the New York Sharks professional women’s tackle football team, said her two passions suit her like cease and desist, law and order, block and tackle.

“I’m pretty tough, so it’s very aggressive,” she said. “And being a lawyer, you gotta be tough, so the two go together, I guess.”

Lewis, a Bay Ridge resident who since 1999 has been roughing it in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL), will strap on the shoulder pads for her first game of the season on Saturday, April 3, when she and the Sharks face the Atlanta Xplosion in Queens.

But Lewis, who shares the field with Veronica Simmons, another Brooklyn-born linewoman, said her sights are set on other foes.

The season, which spans eight games through June, will give the Sharks a second chance to beat the Sacramento Sirens, who last year defeated Lewis and her teammates 41-30 in the IWFL Championship game, the league’s Super Bowl.The loss surprised Lewis, whose team was the defending champion and ended the regular season undefeated.

“When that game comes, we will win,” she said, boldly predicting this season’s first meeting between the teams.

The 44-year-old Bay Ridge native and Fort Hamilton High School alum has torpedoed the pigskin since she was a kid, when she competed with the boys in afternoon games of touch football.

Even after her mother scolded her for playing with the boys, Lewis continued, now with a team full of police officers, nurses and stockbrokers.

The Sharks were formed in 2000, after a Manhattan businesswoman scooped it up andadded it to more than 20 women’s tackle teams nationwide. In Lewis’ first-ever game with the team, the Sharks beat the Minnesota Vixens12-6, proving that New York was ready for some football.

Besides the 5-foot-8 Lewis, at least five other Brooklynites play on the Sharks, including Rose Addison, of Bay Ridge; Darleen Hall, ofPark Slope; Lori DeVivio, of Marine Park; and Virginia “Cha Chi” Leon, a Coney Island-born running back now living on Staten Island.

“We have more Brooklyn roots this year in terms of coaching,” said Lewis, whose Sharks practice three times a week at Fort Hamilton High School.

The team, comprised of about 40 women ranging in age from 19 to 44, has won one championship, when it beat theAustin Outlaws 24-4 in 2002.

Before then, however, Lewis played flag football for the T-Devils, as in Tasmanian Devils, she said.With that team, forwhich she began playing in 1988, she rose to the ranks of captain in 1994, the year she and the team began a four-yearchampionship streak.

As she prepares to begin her 16th year in organized football, Lewis admits that one of her biggest opponents is age.Each year, new, young women join the team, each stronger than the last.

“They’re faster than I am,” said Lewis. “They’re coming into their prime and I’m dwindling. I mean, my aches last weeks. But experience takes the place of quickness.”

by Jotham Sederstrom

Atlanta 21 @ New York 28

Queens, New York, April 3, 2004
Right from the start, things looked shakey for New York. The day started off with rain, it was the fifth straight regular season home game that the ground was wet before the start of play. In preparing the press box, a squirrel nest was found in the grating protecting one of the windows. This prevented opening one of three windows so as not to harm the baby squirrels, but it made it difficult for the broadcast team to see the game. Things got no better on the football field as the Sharks lost the coin toss and Atlanta elected to receive.

Sharks owner Andra Douglas celebrating her birthday today started the game by kicking off. She was awarded with a nasty present from the Xplosion as kick returner Angela Rowe returned the kick 78 yards for a touchdown. Just 15 seconds into the new season and the Sharks were shocked. New head coach Ruben Sanchez tried to calm the troops by telling them to not worry, it was still early. Kicker Kay Batemanmissed the extra point and Atlanta had the lead 6-0.

After Atlanta kicked off, the Sharks started their offense from their own 41-yard line. This was the first time the fans were going to see the Sharks in their brand new offensive scheme which is based on the run and shoot and features a no-huddle offense. Quarterback Val Halesworth immediately took command and using short passes mixed with a few handoffs marched the Sharks down to the Atlanta 6-yard line. But things started to unravel as New York got hit with a couple of penalties which pushed them back to the 16-yard line. The Xplosion then exploited their size advantage on the line and pressured the quarterback, earning two sacks to push the Sharks all the way back to the 31-yard line. The Sharks went for the touchdown on 4th and 31 but could only gain 4 yards and gave the ball back to Atlanta.

The Xplosion have a very powerful offense which feature a balanced attack of running and throwing. During this series Atlanta tried to establish the run but New York stopped them and forced the Xplosion to punt from their own 35-yard line. The ball was punted very high into the air but not very far as it bounced only 3 yards beyond the line of scrimmage before bouncing backwards. Atlanta players watched and followed the ball as it bounced back to the 35 yard line but did not down it. New York’s Lori DeVivio noticed the mental lapse and quickly scooped up the ball and ran down the left sideline for the tying score. Rookie Jenny Graf kicked the extra point and the Sharks had the lead 7-6 with 6:34 left in the first quarter.

The Xplosion tried to stick with their ground game but the Sharks vaunted defense stopped Atlanta from gaining any yardage. Running back Chamaine Chin who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season could not break free as time after time linebacker Missy Marmorale was able to pursue Chin and stop her before she got too far. Chin ended up being held to only 11 yards rushing for the day.

The Xplosion’s next punt attempt was only slightly better than the last one. Rose Addison broke through the line and got her hand on the ball to block the punt. As the ball rolled backwards, Toni Salvatore jumped on the ball to recover it on the Xplosion’s 28-yard line.Despite the excellent field position, the Sharks could not move the ball and gave the ball back to Atlanta on loss of downs.

During the next few possesions, both teams’ defenses held, but Atlanta was gainings some success with their passing game. The Xplosion finally broke through late in the second quarter. Starting on their own 34-yard line, quarterback Sue Cackowski started to air out the ball and she hit Natasha Slan with a 32-yard gain. Cackowski again went deep and this time hit Audra Thomas with a 33-yard pass for a touchdown. The snap for the extra point went high and Atlanta again failed to convert but they had taken the lead back 12-7 with 4:01 left in the half.

As the first half came to a close, New York was lucky to be behind by only 5 points. The game was sloppy with both teams being hit with a total of 10 penalties, but Atlanta was starting to flex their muscles. On offense they were having some success with the passing attack and on defense, they were harrassing Halesworth in to rushing passes or having to eat the football.

During the third quarter, the Xplosion seemed to have made the proper adjustments and were getting ready for the kill. It started with Atlanta getting the ball in very good field position after a bad punt by the Sharks. The snap was low to punter Niki Gwinnet and with a blocker in her face she was only able to kick the ball 8 yards. Getting possession on New York’s 43-yard line, Cackowski went to the long ball and connected with Rowe for a 33-yard touchdown pass. The Xplosion failed on the 2-point conversion but was still able to increase their lead to 18-7 with 9:30 left in the third quarter.

After the kick-off, New York again had trouble blocking Atlanta’s rush as Halesworth was sacked again. For the game, Halesworth was sacked 6 times and had numerous hurries. The Sharks went 3 and out and were forced to punt. New York’s special teams showed they have a long way to go as they allowed a 60-yard return that placed the ball at the Sharks’ 5-yard line.

The Sharks’ defense came up big and stopped Atlanta from scoring a touchdown, but Bateman was able to kick a 24-yard field goal. This extended the Xplosion lead to 21-7 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.

It surely looked like Atlanta was going to break New York’s regular season 21-game winning streak. Especially as the Shark offense continued to sputter under the pass rush of Atlanta. But some sun started to shine through as the third quarter came to a close.

Atlanta had the ball on their own 44-yard line as they tried to go deep again, this time DeVivio picked off the pass and returned the ball to the 49-yard line of Atlanta. It was DeVivio’s second pick of the day to go with her touchdown return in the first quarter.

Halesworth using some quick passes towards the sidelines was able to move the team down to the Xplosion 13-yard line. Then Marmorale making her first appearance on offense got the ball next on a toss and powered her way to the 1-yard line. Another pitch to Marmorale and the Sharks were on the scoreboard since the first quarter. Graf’s extra point attempt went wide, but the Sharks were able to close the deficit to 21-13 with 13:51 left in the game.

The Xplosion kept trying to get their running game going and eat time off the clock but found very little success. They did find some success in the passing game, but again they went to the well a bit too often and this time it was Virginia “Cha Chi” Leon who came up big with an interception. This gave New York the ball at the Atlanta 47-yard line.

Starting to sense that there was blood in the air, Atlanta blood at that, the Sharks methodically moved the ball towards the game-tying touchdown. Using short pass plays, mixed with a few runs, the Sharks were able to score again. The touchdown coming on a clutch 4th down 8-yard pass from Halesworth to Jen Blum. Being down by 2-points, the Sharks went for the 2-point conversion and Halesworth hit Kathy Holloman to tie the score with 5:32 left in the game.

The fans were screaming loudly on the next Atlanta possession as they fumbled the ball on the handoff. Courtney Eaton recovered the ball at the Xplosion 42-yard line. With Atlanta reeling, Halesworth was able to march the Sharks down the field. She picked up 11 yards herself running the ball, 17 yards on a pass to Holloman, and the rest on the legs of Marmorale. Marmorale’s 6-yard touchdown run put New York into the lead with 2:36 left in the game. Graf split the uprights to give the Sharks a 28-21 lead.

There was little time left, but coach Sanchez feared another big return by Atlanta and ordered an on-side kick. The ball was touched by the Sharks before the ball went 10 yards and the Xplosion took over on the Sharks’ 40-yard line. Cackowski tried to tie the score by going to the air, but this time, the Sharks defense held. The final blow came on a Marmorale sack of the quarterback with under a minute left.

This was the most exciting game the Sharks have played in front of their home fans in years. Not only was it exciting to the fans at the game but to all our listeners. This was the first game the Sharks had broadcast over their flagship station, KEDU. The game was defintely a sloppy, error-prone affair on both sides, but when it came to crunch time, the Shark veterans’ knew what it takes to win the game.

The Sharks next game will be at home against the New Hampshire Freedom on Saturday, April 17th. Game time is 3pm at August Martin High School. The Freedom are greatly improved having picked up 1,000 yard rusher Katia Pashkevitch. If you can’t make it to the game, you can listen to our broadcast over the Internet at

1 2 3 4 Final
Atlanta Xplosion 6 6 9 0 21
New York Sharks 7 0 0 21 28

Scoring Summary
First Quarter
AT – (14:45) Rowe 80 yard kick-off return (kick failed)
NY – (06:34) DeVivio 35 yard punt return (Graf kick)

Second Quarter
AT – (04:01) Thomas 33 yard pass from Cackowski (kick failed)

Third Quarter
AT – (09:30) Rowe 36 yard pass from Cackowski (run failed)
AT – (05:30) Bateman kicks 24 yard field goal

Fourth Quarter
NY – (13:51) Marmorale 1 yard run (kick failed)
NY – (05:32) Blum 8 yard pass from Halesworth (Holloman run)
NY – (02:36) Marmorale 6 yard run (Graf kick)

To listen to this game, click here.