Girls flag football sights & sounds: ‘I’ll be calling plays against Steve Young and John Paye’

Longtime Pioneer boys basketball coach Joe Berticevich having a blast coaching flag football. At California, girls who were casual football fans before are all in now.


Joe Berticevich is best known in the South Bay high school sports community for his tenure as Pioneer’s boys basketball coach.

He is also the athletic director at the San Jose school.

He now has a new line on his resume: Girls flag football coach.

He wasn’t his first choice to lead Pioneer’s flag team in the inaugural flag season this fall.But when others couldn’t, he reasoned, “Why not?”

Berticevich then went to work. As a self-proclaimed “born and raised Niners fan,” he watched YouTube flag football videos to fill out the playsheet and has approached the season competitively as he would basketball.

“I am treating this very competitively,” he stated. “Show your best foot forward. Going through the motions is not enough. No, we’re out there trying to field the best team possible and be as competitive as possible.”

Thus far, so good.

Pioneer improved to 4-1 with a 20-0 victory over Willow Glen on Tuesday. This came after a 30-6 victory over Independence the previous week.

“I love football,” said Berticevich, a basketball coach for three decades. “It’s my favorite sport to watch and root for as a spectator.” Calling plays is a lot of fun.”

Berticevich will become even colder as the season progresses.

Pioneer will travel to Atherton on Oct. 16 to face Menlo School, whose coaching staff includes Hall of Fame quarterback and former 49ers star Steve Young.

Menlo’s head coach, John Paye, is a former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.

“I’ll be calling plays against Steve Young and John Paye,” said Berticevich. “That’s pretty cool.”

He laughed and added, “I’m going to have to pull some special plays out for that game.”

Darren Sabedra’s


Berticevich has quickly learned what it takes to be a successful flag football player.

“There is obviously some strategy with the different rules,” he stated. “However, there are three skills that you must have when playing flag football: You must be quick. You must be capable of both catching and throwing the ball.

“If you have one of the three, you’ll be fine.” You’re really good if you can do all three.”

Darren Sabedra’s


There are numerous reasons why 49ers legend Steve Young is enjoying coaching Menlo’s flag football team.

But it’s the girls’ enthusiastic embrace of the sport that he finds most enjoyable.

“Football, I’ve always said, is just choreographed dance,” said Young. “It’s difficult to focus 11 guys.” I’m telling you, getting 11 women to focus is so much easier. “During the first practice, everyone was listening, asking questions, and wanting to know what to do.”

Aside from watching his daughters play, he enjoys seeing how quickly the girls pick up on the nuances of the game that he enjoys, such as snap counts — how many times a quarterback says “hut” before the ball is hiked.

Most football teams snap the ball after the second count — “hut, hut,” then snap — but quarterbacks can always change the snap count to confuse defenses.

“They were like, ‘We can go on three or four to try and get the defense to jump?'” “And when they did it, no one flinched,” Young said before exasperating, “I couldn’t get my guys to go on three or four for 15 years.”

— Alexander Simon


Ana Sofia Lopez was a football fan before joining California’s flag team, having inherited her father’s passion for the Raiders.

But, having progressed from admiring the pros to running routes herself, Lopez now watches with a much more critical eye.

“We’ll be like, ‘We need to add this and that to our playbook,'” Lopez explained. “We’ve got to practice this and practice that.”

Lopez isn’t the only player who has transitioned from a spectator sport to something they’re passionate about.

“They’re watching the games, and now they’re coming back talking about the plays, and it’s terrific,” said California coach Frank Grgurina.

— Dycus, Joseph


When the news that flag football would be starting in the fall broke last winter, Woodside strength and conditioning coach Dan Peterson was helping out with the track and field team but knew who to call on on the Redwood City campus.

Peterson approached history teacher Armando Carbajal about coaching the team and offered himself as an assistant.

“I think that was the quickest ‘Yes’ that ever came out of my mouth,” Carbajal said.

But Carbajal wasn’t just signing up for himself. He told Peterson that he was confident in his ability to have 20 players ready to play in one week.

According to Peterson, Carbajal received not 20, but 27 votes.

With a roster of 30, the Wildcats have come out strong, performing well in a scrimmage against Menlo School before defeating Burlingame 34-20 in the season opener.

It has made their head coach very excited about the upcoming season.

“It’s going to be a wild ride, but we’re ready for the adventure,” Carbajal stated. “It’s going to be an incredible season.” Keep an eye out for the Wildcats.”

— Alexander Simon

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