By: Ken LaVicka
ESPN 106.3 Staff Writer
While the spring football period is underway throughout Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, the Jupiter football team will have to wait until next week to strap on the pads.
That's because the girls are using them this week.
Jupiter (founded in 1965) celebrates its 50th year with its annual powderpuff game on Friday, but this isn't your the normal “girls play football, boys act as cheerleaders” type of deal.
What makes Jupiter's game unique is that every girl on the “junior” and “senior” roster wears football pads. That's right. Shoulder pads, helmet...the whole nine yards (pun intended). The soft-sounding “powderpuff” name hardly describes Jupiter's version of the game.
“Most people we're totally nuts for doing it, but this is such a part of the community,” says Jupiter athletic director Michael DeLeonardo.
Originally started as battle between physical education classes in the 1960's and early 70's, the powderpuff battle has morphed into a hard-nosed, all-girl tilt with full contact, pad-crunching action.
Every spring the school unpacks its newly re-conditioned football equipment, and instead of issuing it to the boys, first gives first dibs to the girls for the powderpuff game.
Because of way the calendar fell this year, spring football, instead of opening at the beginning of May, kicked off a week earlier, meaning it would overlap with the powderpuff game. Did new, two-time state champion head coach Bill Powers (hired last Thursday) and his team get an exception made for them this year?
At Jupiter, powderpuff takes priority. And everyone involved understands that that's just how it is.
In fact, Jupiter's male footballers end up playing a major role in game.
The teams are actually coached by junior and senior football players who teach their squads X's and O's and devise gridiron game plans to lead their team to victory over the course of four ten-minute, running clock quarters. To make sure everything is going smoothly, members of Jupiter's football coaching staff oversee all of the practices (four in total, one with pads on) and specially fit the equipment to each individual girl's needs.
Perhaps the school's most anticipated yearly event, the Jupiter powderpuff games have created a vast tapestry of tales and memories, but a favorite story of DeLeonardo's involves the school's longtime former head coach Charlie Persson.
Back in 1982, when Persson was just beginning his tenure and the school, the powderpuff game was held in the fall, right in the middle of the football season. When powderpuff time came around, Persson was forced to give up all of his equipment to the girls for an entire week so that the game could go off as planned, without any alterations or interruptions. In a not very surprising turn of events, the next powderpuff game happened in...the spring of 1984. It hasn't been played in the fall since Persson's first year.
From a safety perspective, which is the first and foremost priority for the school, every girl involved must have a recent physical and all of them sign an insurance waiver just in case an injury occurs.
DeLeonardo admits that a full-pads girls football game has raised eyebrows from some of his contemporaries locally and across the country, but Jupiter's powderpuff game is a tradition that has spanned generations. It's not going anywhere.
“I currently have dozens of daughters of ladies who played,” says DeLeonardo. “There's no way we can stop it.”
Friday's latest edition of the Jupiter powderpuff game begins at 6:00 p.m.