The AHSAA announced in April that girls flag football would be a sanctioned sport beginning this fall. Slowly but surely, several local high schools have jumped on board.
The Opelika-Auburn News has learned seven schools are hoping to field a girls flag football team for the AHSAA’s inaugural season: Auburn High, Central-Phenix City, Smiths Station, Opelika, LaFayette, Loachapoka and Notasulga. Six of the schools appear to be all systems go on their programs, while Notasulga athletic director Anthony Jones said the school has been discussing it but have yet to make an agreement.
Coaches or athletic directors from Beauregard, Beulah, Dadeville, Lanett, Reeltown, Tallassee and Valley confirmed they do not plan on fielding a girls flag football team at this time.
Loachapoka principal and athletic director Albert Weeden explained the plan for his school is to try and get roughly 20-25 girls to compete and hopefully schedule several home-and-home games with the local teams. Weeden said the plan is for new assistant basketball coach Sheroderick Smith to coach the team and for the varsity football coaches to help on Thursdays when their squads are focusing on walk-throughs.
Weeden pointed out Loachapoka received a grant in 2018 from USA Football that gave the school flag belts, footballs, and training equipment like cones that can have the team a little ahead of the game starting out. In Weeden’s opinion, adding a sport like girls flag football will provide another learning avenue for the school’s female athletes.
“I think the main thing is that we give the ladies an opportunity to learn some more educational-based athletics. The kids get to learn about the ins and outs of football but more than that about the game of life we play,” Weeden said. “It’s all about giving them another opportunity to be successful. It’s a great opportunity. I think we’d be selling ourselves short if we didn’t give everybody an opportunity — even if it’s five people.”
Here’s a comprehensive look at what we know regarding the seven AHSAA high schools that are hoping to have a girls flag football team this fall:
Auburn High will be coached by assistant softball coach Alison Link. There will be a meeting for girls interested in playing flag football at 6 p.m. on June 29 in the school’s main gym.
Link explained the goal is to set up times in July for prospective players to run through drills and workouts to get exposed to the sport before hosting tryouts in August once school is back in session.
Central cheerleading coach Tammy Taylor and Emily Barrs will be the team’s co-head coaches. Taylor and Barrs have already selected a 25-person team, but Taylor said they may add more players depending on if any transfers to the school are interested in joining the team.
According to the Citizen of East Alabama’s Mark Clark, Central’s team includes A’zariah Benton, Addyson Gessner, Ansley Deaton, Ashley Rogers, C’Nia Ford, Dane Ferguson, Kate Powell, Gracen Corbett, Gracy Patterson, Harmonie Thomas, Ja’Niya Garrett, Jaidaiya Wright, Jaliyah Kelly, Kensley Messer, Mariah Jones, Miracle Washington, Moniya London, Shermonica Brown, Siany Watkins, Talia Johnson, Tammaria Edmonds, Tearteauna Stallion, Veyonca Frank, Victoria Colon and Yasmine Ross.
Smiths Station’s team will be led by tennis coach and assistant volleyball coach Megan Larsen, who won two intramural championships in a sorority league and a co-ed league as a student at Auburn University.
The Lady Panthers held tryouts in May and had 45-50 athletes sign up to participate beforehand.
Larsen told the Citizen of East Alabama’s Michael Newsome that she hopes to establish flag football teams for the younger students in Smiths Station to really help the sport thrive in the years to come.
“I want to make flag football big, and I want to try to get the elementary schools involved and to apply for grants to get footballs and flags to get the program started at that level,” Larsen said.
Opelika will be led by girls soccer coach Jaclyn Button, who played intramural football while at Auburn University. The team held tryouts in mid-May.
LaFayette athletic director Juan Williams told the Opelika-Auburn News the school is working on starting a team but did not provide any further details.
Loachapoka will be led by Smith and are still in the process of putting plans together in preparation for the fall season.
Jones told the Opelika-Auburn News the school has been discussing adding a team but has not made an agreement yet.