Joliet Catholic is on the offensive, just 20 yards from the end zone. The center hikes. The quarterback throws. This is for all the Tostitos.
But this isn't high school football. It's (arguably) way more serious. This is high school flag football.
“It's like playing backyard football,” said Coach Jim Geovanes, an OPRF physical education teacher who founded the team last year.
The game comes as part of a 34-team flag football league, sponsored by the Chicago Bears, for Chicago-area Catholic and public high schools. Teams compete for seven weeks, during which only undefeated teams advance. (Oak Park beat Fenwick High School earlier this season.)
The championship takes places at Halas Hall, the Bears' Lake Forest headquarters. The winning team will get recognition on-field during an upcoming NFL league game.
The OPRF game, played on a recent Tuesday, brought some 15 Huskie players, each donning orange-and-blue Bears T-shirts and green plastic flags. The students come mostly from the spring baseball and lacrosse teams, says Geovanes, who also coaches baseball in the spring.
“No fall athletes,” he said.
Last year's try-outs drew 35; this year's attracted 60.
Some 25 spectators came to the game on the field south of Lake Street. With the field's unclear boundaries, players frequently ran off field and into the crowd. Some nearly tackled parents on several occasions. The parents laughed. The mood was playful.
The league's lightheartedness bucks a major trend in high school football over the past twenty years, as more varsity teams turn toward high-pressure, intense competition. In a culture of nationally televised high school football games, many high school football teams are exceeding 20-hour practice weeks, oftentimes year-round.
High school football player deaths, such as from heat stroke during summer practices, has drawn public scrutiny, as have reports that sub-concussive and concussive head injuries have impaired players' cognitive functioning.
Flag football brings few if any injuries.
“It's the best game without pads,” says assistant coach Doug Hill, special education teacher at the high school. And according to Geovanes, the flag football team practices zero days a week.
The Huskies have been on a winning streak this fall, but Tuesday's Joliet game ended with the opponent's 4th-and-20 pass completing, giving Joliet a 13-18 win.
The Huskies will continue playing on another intramural league, where they're ranked number one.