A group of Florida junior high school students lost their final flag football game of the season Thursday, but they won an equal opportunity fight for boys and girls.
Forget powder puff. Armoni Peppers knows how to play with the boys.
“She’s awesome. I love her,” coach Bobby Burke said. “She’s aggressive. She can catch.”
Peppers tried out for Brevard County’s Odyssey Charter School’s junior high flag football team and made it.
“It makes me feel good, and also, it gives me muscle mass and stuff,” the seventh-grader said.
But after several games, the Space Coast Christian Athletic Association told her that girls can’t play on the team.
“At first, I was, like, kind of sad,” she said.
“She was very upset. She was crying,” Kimberly Peppers-Coney said. “I said, ‘We’re going to work on this.'”
The 12-year-old walked up to her final game Thursday in uniform, but the league’s athletic director told her that she couldn’t go on the field.
The athletic director declined an on-camera interview, but said that two years ago, the association voted to make football a boys-only sport and volleyball a girls-only sport.
“If they established that, I was never told that,” Burke said. “The actual A.D. of our school didn’t know that.”
The league’s athletic director said the rule keeps girls from being grabbed in their genitals or losing their pants by accident.
“That should be my decision,” Peppers-Coney said. “I keep her fully dressed. She wears another outfit underneath her uniform.”
The uniforms that the Pepper family wore Thursday carried a clear message — and it worked, because the opposing team’s coach gave the OK and the league let Armoni play.
“I think with the presence of having us here and the media they have allowed her to play today,” Peppers-Coney said.
Next season is up in the air for now, but Armoni’s dreams go far beyond the field.
“Flag pulling is easy,” she said. “But, like, tackling — I could do that easier.”
Peppers plays like a girl — one without limits.
“It doesn’t matter if boys are better,” she said. “If you like it and you want to do it, then you can go out and do it. You can accomplish anything when you put your mind to it basically.”