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FLAG FOOTBALL: What a Finish to Inaugural PCL Championship as Wood Defeats Egan on Final Play

By John Knebels / Photos & Video Donna Eckert, 05/29/24, 12:00PM EDT


Down to the Final Second, Wood Secures Hail Mary Pass to Victory

Archbishop Wood - 2024 PCL Flag Football Champions! - PSD Photo by Donna Eckert

Photos/Videos: Donna Eckert

By: John Knebels

WARMINSTER – Jalen Hurts and A. J. Brown . . . Dak Prescott and CeeDee Lamb . . . Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase . . . Tua Tagovailoa and Tyreek Hill.

Ava Renninger and Lauren Greer.

Name five quarterback-receiver combos you want on your team with the season on the line.

Okay. Maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But after watching and re-watching (and re-watching again . . . and again) the electric last-second Hail Mary touchdown connection from Renniger to Greer that literally lifted Archbishop Wood from the claws of defeat to the throes of victory in the first-ever Philadelphia Catholic League flag football championship, a 20-19 victory over Conwell-Egan on May 16 at Cardinal O’Hara High School, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to argue that any two professional athletes could have better executed a must-have touchdown pass on the final snap of a football game.

“The mindset for the last play was just to have faith and know that we were a good enough team to do our best to come back,” said Greer. “I remember the huddle before the play and Ava was like, ‘I’m gonna throw it. Go up and get it.’ And I was like, ‘Okay.’ I had faith that she would place it in my hands, so I was nervous. But I knew what was going to happen.”

With 42.5 seconds remaining and trailing by 19-14 with one timeout, Wood needed to travel 66 yards and score a touchdown. The Vikings moved to within 21 yards with seven seconds left.

Time for one last play.

As Greer sprinted down field on a corner route, two Conwell-Egan defenders maneuvered themselves in position to prevent a touchdown. But Renninger’s launch – unleashed with a defender breathing on her face – literally could not have been placed any better. 

“I remember being in the huddle and I just told her that I’ll put it up there for you and you just gotta go get it . . . and it worked perfectly,” said Renniger. “During the game, they under-covered that route Lauren ran, so I knew if I overthrew them but just enough that it stayed inbounds, then she would get it.”

However, along with the difficulty of completing the throw and catch, Greer had to land inbounds.

Once again, with inches to spare, Greer came through. After leaping into the air and snatching the pigskin, Greer clearly got both feet down and tumbled to the ground.

“I honestly didn’t even know that I got both feet inbounds, but in the video you can see that I looked at the end zone referee and saw both of his hands up,” said Greer. “I think that was why I was in shock the most – just knowing that it wasn’t out of bounds and that we just won the game.”

Conwell-Egan PCL Flag Football Championship Highlights by Donna Eckert for PSD

Archbishop Wood PCL Flag Football Championship Highlights by Donna Eckert for PSD

When considering their pedigree, Renninger and Greer succeeding at the marquee time of the game – and season – isn’t that surprising.

For the past three years, Renninger has been the point guard for a Wood basketball team that advanced to the PCL semifinals in 2022, lost in the final in 2023, and snared the PCL championship at the Palestra on February 26 in the first-ever double-overtime final in league history. A month later, on March 23, Wood corralled its fourth straight state championship – the third for Renniger as a starter, punctuated by being honored as the PIAA Class 5A Player of the Year.

Greer, meanwhile, started this year in hoops and played pivotal roles in both the PCL and state finals. And, um, Greer also happened to be the starting goalie on Archbishop Wood’s back-to-back soccer championships the past two years. Greer joins sophomore soccer, basketball, and flag football teammate Sophia Topakas as the first two players in PCL history (excluding cross-country, indoor track and outdoor track) to win three league titles in the same academic calendar year.

“I had a lot of fun last year (when flag football was a club sport) so I decided to come back for my final year,” said Greer. “I really just wanted to play because soccer and basketball are very stressful, committed sports. Still fun, but flag was something I knew I could just have fun with and not stress about games. I don’t know what I would have done with my time if I wasn’t playing a sport.”

Renninger and Greer were quick to point out that Archbishop Wood’s historic title and legendary ending doesn’t come close to occurring without their teammates.

When the post-season awards were announced, along with Renninger being named Most Valuable Player, Greer was joined by sophomore Brigid Johnston and senior Mackensie Ferguson on the first-team All-Catholic list. Second-teamers included senior Alexa Windish and sophomore Macie Kennedy.

The contributions of Johnston – a two-year starter in soccer and two-way player in flag – cannot be understated. After scoring two touchdowns on identical routes – an inside fake and subsequent outside sprint – Johnston grabbed a fourth-down reception during the last-minute drive that kept the Vikings alive.

“With little time left, we were all rushing to try to get as much yardage, and Ava threw a great ball to the outside and I caught it,” said Johnston, who ran the same pattern on the last play of the game, undoubtedly causing chaos in Conwell-Egan’s secondary. “It felt like it wasn’t even real at one point. It’s still crazy to think about."

(R to L) Archbishop Wood sophomore Sophia Topakas and seniors Lauren Greer, Alexa Windish and Ava Renninger Talk about the exciting ending to an incredible game. Video/ Donna Eckert for PSD

WIth zero seconds left on the clock, Ava Renniger throws a Hail Mary pass to Lauren Greer capturing the 20-19 Title win over Conwell-Egan

For seniors in particular, finishing their career in such an unlikely celebratory fashion – especially since organized flag football didn’t even become a thought until two years ago – supplied an additional level of appreciation for their Archbishop Wood experience. 

“Bringing the first-ever flag football PCL championship to Wood gives me a lot of pride,” said Windish, a basketball starter and flag football slot receiver who made a key snag during the final drive. “And I'll never forget the way we won the game. I loved playing flag football, and I hope the sport continues to gain popularity with girls throughout the community and across the country.

“Winning the first ever flag football PCL championship was different than our basketball PCL championship, but amazing in its own way. Wood basketball is intense from pre-season to the final game of the season, and expectations are always high. Through the long history of Wood girl's basketball, winning the PCL has proved to be the toughest accomplishment. Nothing really compares to a double overtime PCL championship win in front of a sold out Palestra for your senior year.

“Flag football is a secondary sport for most of the team. The team is full of basketball and soccer players, and we were really looking forward to playing a new sport together and having fun. But of course, we are all very competitive and want to win, too. It was a great experience to go undefeated in the PCL, and we were all motivated and serious about the PCL championship, as were our coaches, who did a great job teaching us the sport.”

Topakas’ anxiety was lessened a bit after she tapped into her recall of the PCL basketball final, when Wood and Carroll both had late opportunities to win the championship in regulation, overtime, and double overtime. Too, as a freshman, Wood won the soccer championship in overtime.

“There were seven seconds left and it was coming down to the wire,” said Topakas. “This feeling surely wasn’t something I hadn’t experienced before. I knew that when I heard this play was going to Lauren that she would catch it, and that’s what she did. We had came back just like we did in basketball and won the first-ever PCL girls’ flag football.”

Wood coach Jim Savage never lost faith after Conwell-Egan took a 19-14 lead inside the final minute of regulation.

“During the regular season we never trailed any game, but I wanted us to be ready for any situation and that included the possibility that we could find ourselves trailing in the game,” said Savage. “So all week I was just trying to plant the seed and get the kids’ mindset paying attention that this game was going to be battle, maybe even closer than our regular season meeting with them.  

“No matter if we were up or down on the scoreboard, I just wanted them to stay relaxed, stay focused, and believe in themselves and their teammates. Mistakes happen when you press; let the other team panic.”

Though the odds during the final drive belonged to Conwell-Egan, logic doesn’t always compute in athletics, especially for a group as athletic as Wood.

“With having to drive the length of the field in only 42 seconds, the girls were true to fashion,” said Savage. “They stayed calm, played their game, and set themselves up to win the game on the final play.

“On that final play, once Ava was able to step into her throw, even with the heavy rush, I knew we had a good chance.  Once the ball was in the air, everything seemed to slow down.  I saw a lot of blue jerseys, then I saw Lauren go up and high point the ball . . . the only way a soccer goalie and basketball player could. Once it was in her hands, I was trying to see that she held on to it, but once I saw the ref signal touchdown, our sideline exploded.”

Savage understood the big picture.

“During the course of any athlete’s playing life, as kids, you always dream or pretend that you just threw or caught the game-winning touchdown,” said Savage. “I just saw two of the best players in the league make it a reality.” 

(Contact John Knebels at or on ‘X’ – formerly Twitter – @johnknebels.)