PENNSBURY >> The pandemic may have postponed the big game at Eleanor Roosevelt Elementary School from January to June, but it couldn’t stop this right of passage from happening.
A determined administration, led by Principal Lisa Follman, developed a safety plan and then updated and revised it to make the big game happen for the fifth graders.
So when the morning of the game dawned with clouds and some drizzle in the area, there was no way they were going to cancel or postpone on the account of rain. This game was going to happen.
And it did, much to the delight and youthful enthusiasm of the students, who haven’t enjoyed a school event like this since before the pandemic.
So for the 11th year, students laced up their sneakers and took to the grassy field next to their school in Falls Township for what has become a right of passage for the fifth grade - the Super Duper Bowl - a flag football game usually played the Friday before the Super Bowl.
This year, the game played out in early June after school officials postponed the January event hoping that a window might open up toward the end of the year.
In addition to having fun, learning good sportsmanship and fair play, which tie in with the school’s character education initiatives, students collected food for the Bucks County Emergency Homeless Shelter in Levittown.
To kick off the game, each of the school’s four teams burst onto the field, breaking through paper banners emblazoned with their team’s .name and mascot.
This year’s game pitted four teams against each other on the playing field - the Kean Kongs, the Toledano Tornadoes, the Wells Warriors and Miller’s Mean Machine - each of which incorporates a fifth grade homeroom teacher into their name.
With teachers playing quarterback, players scrambled across the field, waving their hands through the air and begging for the pigskin to be thrown their way as their classmates and teachers in Pre-K to 4 waved signs and cheered from the sidelines.
For more than an hour, the players looked for openings, caught passes thrown by their teachers and raced down the field to the goal line.
Cheering on the players from the sidelines was school principal Lisa Follman who enjoyed watching the kids have fun again.
“It was really important to us to get this game in,” she said. “We’ve done it for 11 years. It was the number one thing the fifth graders asked for when they came by at the beginning of the year to pick up their Chromebooks. They were really worried this wasn’t going to be played.
“The district started opening up a bit and about a month ago I got permission to move forward with it,” said Follman. “We had a really strict health and safety plan ... At first it was just going to be the game without spectators. We submitted a new health and safety plan that’s allowing us to do this today and it feels really good.
“The kids needed this,” she added. “These kids lost part of their fourth grade year to an asynchronous experience and this year they were virtual a good part of the year. I really think this feels really good for them.”
One of the best parts, said Follman, was once they got approval to hold the game, the staff created a video that announced the big news.
“They (the kids) didn’t get it at first. They said, ‘Wait. Are you saying we are going to be able to play this game?’ That’s how they found out,” she said. “It’s just so nice to see them doing something normal.”
During the game, the Kean Kongs put up a good fight, but in the end victory this year again went to Miller’s Mean Machine.
Running away with this year’s MVP award was Adrian from the Toledano Tornadoes while the Miller Mean Machine claimed the coveted Super Duper Bowl Falcon trophy and post-game bragging rights after tallying the game’s most touchdowns.
“I’m so happy we were able to play the game this year,” said teacher Jason Miller, of Miller’s Mean Machine. “And I think doing it at the end of the year made it even more special to them because it will be a memory of their last few days at ER.
“It’s a shame in a way that one team has to win because they all have so much fun,” added Miller.
With that said, Miller couldn’t resist gloating a little bit over the win. “The Kong’s reign of terror is over,” he proclaimed.
“It gets competitive, but it’s all in good fun,” said Miller. “The kids are great sports. They take care of each other. And in the end it’s a fifth grade event, it’s not a team event.”
Miller said he’s always impressed by the action out on the field. “The fun thing about this game is you have kids who have never touched a football in their life and they are out there catching, running and smiling.”
After a long winning streak, teacher Roger Kean again had to concede defeat to the Mean Machine. “They are back. They are here,” he said. “And they are a formidable opponent.”
Kean and Miller brought the idea of the Super Duper Bowl to the school more than a decade ago to give the kids something to look forward to in January. “We started this 11 years ago and hopefully we’ll do it 11 more.”
As for the play action this year, Kean said it was beautiful. “After this long year with Covid restrictions, just to see them out there with smiles on their faces, having fun, ending the year on a positive note, you can’t get any better than that.”
Following this year’s game, the Kean Kongs continue to lead in the standings with eight Championships under their belt, including one tie, while Miller’s Mean Machine has increased its championships to three.