Past and Present Giants Quarterbacks Support Shore Conference Girls Flag Football

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones and two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning posed with the Trinity Hall girls flag football team at a Shore Conference clinic at Manasquan High School. Rich Chrampanis

By Rich Chrampanis

MANASQUAN – Three years ago, the New York Giants helped launch girls flag football in the Shore Conference, a sport spearheaded by Middletown South football coach Steve Antonucci. A preseason clinic at Manasquan’s new field house saw new teams and Giants QBs of the past and present. Two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning and current quarterback Daniel Jones helped run drills with over 10 teams from Monmouth and Ocean counties. 

“You think about how much football meant to me growing up and having that experience,” Jones said. “Building relationships, learning a lot about everything through it. I’m excited that these girls get that same opportunity.”

Manning talked with Holmdel’s Grace Koenig (2) and coach Melissa Menges during drills. Rich Chrampanis

Jones and Manning took pictures and signed autographs throughout their time at the clinic and worked directly with the players, helping at different drill stations. They also participated in a Q&A for the over 200 athletes who participated.

“These girls, they see it on TV and they watch the Giants and for them to have role models and have Daniel here and the Giants behind this, I think it’s just great to get more people involved in football,” Manning said. “It doesn’t have to be tackle – flag football is an awesome sport.”

Rumson-Fair Haven makes its debut in flag football this season, giving The Two River Times area seven teams in the 14-team Shore Conference.

“It’s so exciting,” RFH junior Katriana Walls said. “It’s so nice to meet them and they’re such great people. We’re learning a lot from them, especially the QBs when they got to go back and get different comments and drills and learn from them there.”

Shore Regional won the 2022 Shore flag football championship. Jones and Manning both had the chance to watch video highlights of Rylee Drahos, the star of the Blue Devils two-time sectional championship girls basketball team and one of the top performers in flag football. Drahos was an elite wide receiver and the two Giants signal callers were clearly impressed with her skills. 

Jones recently signed a four-year $160 million contract to remain the Giants starting quarterback. Rich Chrampanis

“That’s what you want your receiver to do,” Manning said in watching Drahos make some incredible catches from last year. “If they throw it up either you catch it or nobody. That’s awesome.”

The current Giants quarterback also became a quick fan of the Shore Regional multisport athlete. 

“She can go up top and make some plays. It’s impressive,” Jones said. “It’s fun to see. It’s good to come back. There’s a lot of energy, so it’s a great thing to be a part of.”

Jones signed a four-year $160 million contract to stay with Big Blue; he’s ready to get back to work and build upon last year’s breakthrough season that saw the Giants return to the playoffs.

“It’s the same approach,” Jones said. “We’re going to work as hard as we can to be as ready as we can going into training camp. We’re going to attack this first phase of the offseason and get as ready as we can.”

While girls flag football isn’t an official NJSIAA varsity sport, it is clearly on the rise, thanks in part to the Giants and a strong coaching foundation at the Shore. As the number of participants skyrockets, so does the quality of play.

Middletown South’s Steve Antonucci has led the growth of girls flag football in the Shore Conference. Rich Chrampanis

“I think it’s gone up a lot,” Holmdel sophomore QB Michelle Steele said. “I was just a freshman last year and being a sophomore and coming out and seeing this, it’s just a great experience for all of us. It’s amazing.”

As the father of girls, Manning said he’s excited to see where the female side of the sport is going.

“(There’s an) opportunity for them to play in high school, to go on and hopefully it becomes a college sport,” Manning said. “I know they’re talking about it maybe going into the Olympics in ’28. It’s an exciting time.”

Antonucci is respected as one of the all-time great New Jersey high school football coaches and is still very much a part of Friday Night Lights in the fall at the Swamp with the Eagles boys. But his leadership in making Shore flag football a sport on the rise is equally impressive.

“Thank you to the Giants and Eli and obviously for Daniel to spend some time with us,” Antonucci said. “It just further proves the sport of girls flag football is growing each and every day. I would honestly say at least on the East Coast it’s the fastest-growing girls’ sports now.”

Shore Conference
Girls Flag Football 2023 Teams

North Division

Middletown South
Middletown North
Henry Hudson

South Division

Trinity Hall
Rumson-Fair Haven
Long Branch
Shore Regional
St. Rose
Central Regional

The article originally appeared in the March 30 – April 5, 2023 print edition of The Two River Times.


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