Girls flag football: Familiar names coaching Pittsburg, Freedom

Girls flag football: Familiar names coaching Pittsburg, Freedom

For many years, Victor Galli and Kevin Hartwig matched X’s and O’s on high school football fields in East Contra Costa County.

Galli led Pittsburg for 21 years, stepping down last fall; Hartwig guided Freedom for 16 years, resigning in 2017.

They’re back at it again.

Only now as girls flag football coaches, a sport that is being introduced this school year after getting the green light last winter from the California Interscholastic Federation.

Galli is coaching Pittsburg. Hartwig, who was an assistant at Heritage for a few years while his son played there, is back coaching Freedom.

“He and I both came in together in 2002,” Galli told the Bay Area News Group on Thursday. “It’s funny that we’re back together.”

Early signs indicate that the girls game is going to be a hit.

Pittsburg had nearly 80 players try out for the sport in which seven players per side are on the field and pulling a flag from a ballcarrier’s waist blows a play dead. Freedom had about 50.

Both had to cut dozens of players to get their rosters down to about 30.

Freedom football coach Kevin Hartwig talks to his team during a game against Pittsburg on Oct. 6, 2017. (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group) (Doug Duran/Bay Area News Group)

Hartwig said his school will have 20 players on its varsity team and 10 on what he called a silver group.

“We kept freshmen and sophomores just so we can start building a program,” Hartwig said.

Galli said making cuts was painful. He and his assistants watched film of the players before putting the names of those who made the team on a bulletin board.

“In my 21 years coaching at Pittsburg, I cut maybe five people,” Galli said. “I am sure the plan next year is we’re going to do two teams. I don’t like breaking hearts.”

Galli said he didn’t want more players on the roster because there are not enough minutes in a game — 20 per half — to get everyone on the field.

“The thing that happens is when people aren’t playing very much, you get sour that you’re not playing,” he said. “This isn’t Powder Puff. Winning counts. Not everybody plays.”

Hartwig laughed when told about Galli’s mindset.

“I think we’re both just trying to get on the field and figure it out,” Hartwig said.

All six schools in the Bay Valley Athletic League — Pittsburg, Freedom, Antioch, Heritage, Liberty and Deer Valley — will have a team this season and a champion will be crowned.

Neither the North Coast Section nor the Central Coast Section will have playoffs this fall, but it seems likely that will change in the next year or so as the sport continues to grow.

“I’m excited,” Hartwig said. “I think it’s great for football. Gives it a new spark. Brings some positive vibes at a time when it’s all about money now and not just about playing flag football.”

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Galli said he is using similar terminology in his playbook to tackle football but has had to break down the game into its simplest terms.

“We’re starting from scratch as far as the language,” he said. “Yesterday, we walked the field. ‘OK, now it’s second and 10. What does that mean?’ We’re going to be pretty good, but right now we’re a work in progress. The girls are just learning.

“But the great thing is the girls are excited. They’re excited to be there. They’re excited to play.”