By Tamas Mondovics
With its fifth district title in seven years, the East Bay High School Indians girls flag football team, led by program head coach Michael Cooper, closed the 2013 spring season after reaching the second round of regional games.
It is safe to say that the wait to compete and defend the district trophy may seem like an eternity. But the wait is over and after a mixed start, the program is now poised to hold onto its status in a tough district lineup, again facing the Bloomingdale Bulls and Newsome Wolves as well as newcomer to the realigned district, Durant High School Cougars.
The additional district teams, Spoto and Riverview, pose little threat to the rest of the conference.
While the talent, commitment, dedication and effort is there, Cooper is admittedly working with one of the least experienced teams of his flag football coaching career.
“So far, a little more than half way through the season, we are winning and losing some games and unfortunately not executing the plays as well as we should,” he said, adding that the outcome proves the team’s lack of experience, which he confidently said will come in time.
Cooper’s team is returning only three of its 14 starters, namely Indians senior quarterback, Madeline Hornacek and senior linebacker, Quiana Jean-Baptiste, along with junior Tabitha Willis.
The program is also facing some key losses including senior wide receiver, Jada Lester, who is out for the season due to injury, and Nicole Lock. The school graduated solid players Kayla Cyrus, Tiana Hill and Tyler McFarlane.
“We are gaining experience and are improving game by game, but we are far from where we were at this time last year,” Cooper said.
As for the upcoming district tournament, the Indians still have as good of a chance as any, although Bloomingdale is the predicted number one seed program, led by its third-year coach, being the team to watch.
“We do have a shot at the title, but we can’t make any mistakes,” Cooper said.
Of course, no matter how the season turns out at this point, the Indians’ amazing seven-year-run and Coopers’s efforts pushing the sport into the spotlight is always a pleasure to reflect on.
As one of 27 teams and four districts, the Indians are the only team in the county that has played in every district championship game and the only team that shares five championship titles. The other program is Plant City, coached by Larry Langston, who is no longer there.
This year’s spring season will see East Bay and Durant at Matanzas (Palm Coast) at the Coast to Coast Battle tourney, while Alonso and Robinson will participate in the Fourth Annual Capital City Classic tournament in Tallahassee.
In the 1998-1999 school year, the FHSAA started girls’ flag football as a club sport in Florida in 17 high schools. With tremendous enthusiasm, the sport grew and by 2003 the FHSAA recognized the sport, which allowed schools to participate in a state championship series.
Today flag football is the fastest growing girls’ high school sport in the state sporting more than 4,000 athletes and 160 schools. Alaska also offers girls’ flag football.
For more information about East Bay girls flag football, visit http://www.ebhsgirlsflagfootball.com.