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    Kirtland defends its title


    CLEVELAND—Kirtland’s flag football team defended its Northeast Ohio Flag Football Girls High School League championship on Monday at FirstEnergy Stadium.

    The Hornets defeated Lake Catholic, 19-6, in the title game. Kirtland also defeated the Cougars in the 2021 championship game.

    “It was awesome,” said Kirtland senior Macy McIntosh. “Back-to-back–it’s bigger this year, a lot bigger. There is more competition and a bigger stage to perform on. We were able to do it.”

    Last season, the NEOFFL played its games, including the playoffs, at Mentor High School. This season, the Cleveland Browns hosted the championship playoffs and gave the girls an experience they won’t soon forget.

    Current Browns Jacoby Brissett, Isaac Rochelle, and Johnny Stanton were on hand to offer words of encouragement and even praise for the players.

    “I think it was really cool,” said senior Erika Zschuppe. “Not many of our girls have met the Browns players. Maybe they’ve been to some games, but it was really cool to see them and interact with them.”

    McIntosh made plenty of big plays for the Hornets and she thrived on the attention she received from the professional players.

    “It was awesome for them to watch us and encourage us,” McIntosh said. “’Good pass, good catch,’ It was awesome. I loved it.”

    The Hornets opened the playoffs with a dominating 32-6 win over Euclid and then dispatched Perry, 36-1, in the semifinal round.

    That win set up a rematch with Lake Catholic, who edged Kirtland in the regular season, 13-12.

    Neither team found much success on offense in the first half but the Hornets broke the game open in the second.

    McIntosh threw a perfectly placed spiral to Zschuppe for the first points of the game.

    Lake responded on its next possession as Mia Sassano threw a touchdown pass to Shelby Nagy to tie the score at 6-6.

    Gianna Cantini then threw a touchdown pass to McIntosh for a 13-6 Kirtland lead. That touchdown was set up by Zschuppe’s tip-drill reception near the goal line.

    Lake Catholic drove deep into Hornet territory but McIntosh made a leaping interception in the end zone to thwart that drive.

    “My heart was racing,” McIntosh said. “I had to get it. I didn’t know if I should just knock it down, but I was like, ‘I’ve got some hands, I can come down with it.’”

    McIntosh then threw another touchdown pass to Zschuppe to push the lead to 19-6.

    “We needed it,” Zschuppe said. “We just wanted to beat them so bad so anything we had, we just had to get it into the end zone.”

    The Hornets closed out the game with the ceremonial ice-bucket dump on Kirtland coach Tiger LaVerde.

    Steve Hare
    The creator and publisher of, Hare has covered high school sports in Northeast Ohio since 1997. He began as a correspondent for the Lake County News Herald, where he contributed until 2011, primarily covering high school football and wrestling. In 1999, Hare began writing for, a member of the network of high school and college sports web sites. He focuses on covering Notre Dame football recruiting. was created in 2004 and was a member of the network until 2012. The site's original purpose was to cover Ohio high school football and recruiting news but since has grown to cover all sports and to provide sports information services to high school athletic programs and individual teams. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.
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