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Girls battle for paddle in Newport Harbor powder puff football game

As the final seconds ticked away in an eventful powder puff football game, Newport Harbor High senior girls prepared to rush the field.

They giggled and smiled at each other. Moments later they jumped in unison to celebrate a victory, partly for pride, but mostly for charity.

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The scene could have been viewed as a snapshot of the senior year for these Newport Harbor girls who dominated and captured the Battle for the Paddle for the second straight year, beating the NHHS junior females, 48-10, on Saturday at Davidson Field.

But, as corny as it may sound, there were no losers here.

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The money raised went to charities. The winners donated $400 to the Queen of Hearts Foundation, an ovarian cancer research charity. The juniors, through the game, raised $200 for the Pink Ribbon Club, a breast cancer awareness charity.

Brett Beaudette, a senior on the Newport Harbor football team, was one of the coaches for the senior girls. He said he had fun coaching with his friends and watching the girls make big plays. Some of his other friends performed cheer routines.

Beaudette's mother, Kim, and her two sisters, Cathy Greinke and Lori Hunter, started the Queen of Hearts Foundation in 2000 in honor of their mother, Ann Dobbie, who died of ovarian cancer at 65.

Earlier this month, they ran a two-weekend tennis tournament for the 12th year at the Newport Beach Tennis Center to raise money for the Queen of Hearts Foundation.

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They also conduct a gala or an educational conference during the spring for fundraising and awareness.

Kim Beaudette said she was grateful the NHHS student athletes helped the cause even though they have so much going on in their lives.

Everyone involved appeared plenty excited about the big powder puff game. Brett Beaudette was one of them to be sure.

"We absolutely demolished the seniors last year so I was excited to come out again because we had pretty much the same team," he said. "We have some D-1 athletes in other sports on our team. It's definitely fun to have some great players, girls that love to run around and have fun. That's probably the most important thing. All these girls love to run around and have fun."

Natalie Ward, a Newport Harbor senior who was the star of the game, looked like she loved to run around. She intercepted a pass and ran it back 50 yards for a touchdown.

The soccer standout is an NCAA Division 1 athlete, as she has committed to play at Notre Dame.

"It was awesome," Ward said of the Battle for the Paddle game. "It was so much fun. Last year my senior year, I gave it my all."

Ward said she simply cannot turn off her competitiveness and she showed it during the game. She also did her best to avoid injury. Unfortunately, one of her teammates, Hope Bender, one of the school's top track and field athletes, injured her shoulder during warm-ups.

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The juniors were also competitive. They avoided a shutout when JoJo Stassel caught a TD pass from Karly Kilmer.

"We're friendly with a side of competitive," said Gigi Woodall, a player on the Newport Harbor juniors team.

Woodall, and her sister, Lily, a soccer player at NHHS, started the Pink Ribbon Club at Newport Harbor because their mother, Julie, and aunt, Cathy Shatafian, are breast cancer survivors and their grandmother, Betty Shatafian, has it.

"We just want to bring awareness to the school and help find the cure," Gigi said.

Why not have fun while doing it?

That's what Kris Higman wanted. She's the NHHS Pep Squad advisor and the school's cheer and pep squad was in charge of the event. Each player paid $35 to compete and there was a $5 admission fee for fans to watch the game, $2 for students. Some of the money raised went to the Newport Harbor Pep Squad.

"This is school spirit with the boys cheering and dancing around with batons and pom poms, and the other boys coaching," said Higman, whose daughter Matilda played in the game. "This is all about the students here at Newport Harbor, showing their school spirit. It's really exciting especially this week leading up to the Battle of the Bay. This whole week is Spirit Week. This is a nice way to kick it off."

The powder puff game seemed to be a bit of a relief for the Sailors' football team, which had several players participate in the event as coaches and cheerleaders. Newport Harbor lost to Palos Verdes, 49-35, on Friday.

The Sailors then attended their usual game-film session Saturday morning in preparation to face their rival Corona del Mar Friday night at Davidson Field. The Battle of the Bay is always a big game, and this one has many storylines, including the Sea Kings' 29-game winning streak, which includes their victory over Newport Harbor last season.

"We are very focused," said NHHS senior Trevor Shaw, who coached Saturday. "We had a tough week, but we are just going to work hard at practice and fly around and just do our best to play the best we can on Friday."

On Saturday at the powder puff football game, it was all about the Newport Harbor senior girls playing their best and winning.

Kris Higman says she is arranging for the winning seniors to take on the CdM senior girls in a Battle of the Bay powder puff game. That will also be for charity, and that would also be competitive.

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