But the Bay Ridge school is nourishing a new achievement. For the second straight year, its girls' team has reached the PSAL flag football final.
“I love that I can say I’ve been a part of the first flag football team at Fort Hamilton,” player Adriannah Rodriguez said. “It’s a great accomplishment and I’m very proud to say that.”
Flag football is in its second year as a varsity sport with 31 teams in all five boroughs competing, up from 29 in its inaugural season. The sport is a variation of football. While there are no pads and no contact, the players pass, catch and run. Defenders grab a flag as the equivalent of a tackle.
It immediately took off at Fort Hamilton.
“I started a petition at the school and within two days we already had 200 signatures,” said Richard Sherry, who coaches the school’s flag football team.
Among the first to sign up was Rodriguez, who is also a varsity swimmer at the school.
“I love football in general and when girls got a chance to play, even if it's just flag football, I jumped on the opportunity to play,” Rodriguez said. “I love the sport like crazy.”
Rodriguez, who is the PSAL Wingate Award winner, an honor presented to the best senior in each sport, is one of several multi-sport athletes to play flag football. Last year’s PSAL champion, John F. Kennedy from The Bronx, was a team largely comprised of the school’s powerhouse girls basketball team.
Maria Papadakos has been on the Fort Hamilton varsity basketball team since her freshman year. She also plays volleyball, but the sophomore has found her niche on the football field.
“She’s probably the best quarterback in the league,” Sherry said. “She throws 30-40 yards no problem.”
Long before playing varsity flag football, Papadakos, who said she idolizes Giants signal-caller Eli Manning, has been a quarterback.
“I grew up with all boys in my family and they told me I had an arm because I would always play football with them,” Papadakos said. “Immediately I thought I should do it.”’
Sherry said he’s been blessed with good quarterbacks — Virginia Mancuso guided the squad to last year’s title game where the Tigers lost to JFK, 46-40. That’s part of the secret to Fort Hamilton’s success.
“They work hard,” Sherry said. “During the spring recess they were here four or five days a week. We start with a core couple of plays and from there we just tweak each play. We give them silly names so it helps them learn while having fun.”
Among the Tigers plays are “3D,” named because the three receivers on the play all have names that start with the letter D, “DC” is a crossing route and Sherry said if a player comes up with a play that works, they get that play named after them.
Flag football is a sport growing in popularity, not just in New York City but nationally. Florida was the first state to recognize flag football as a varsity sport in 1988 and there are currently more than 25,000 girls in 19 cities competing in the sport.
On Tuesday at Aviator Sports Complex, Fort Hamilton will compete for its second PSAL title, taking on Tottenville from Staten Island.
“It would mean everything [to win],” Rodriguez said. “Last year’s loss was really tough on the team and we’re going to take that and use it as motivation to win this year.”
By just reaching the final for a second straight year, the girls have established themselves in a football-rich school.
“We’re definitely starting our own tradition,” Papadakos said.