By Tamas Mondovics

It’s been more than a dozen years ago that flag football began making a foothold in Florida, allowing a growing number of local high school student-athletes to play the sport they love.

While the gap where flag football teams do not yet exist in the state is slowly closing, local teams such as Bloomingdale, East Bay, Durant, Riverview, Newsome, Plant City, Tampa Bay Tech and Strawberry Crest, to name a few, (representing the FHSAA’s Class 2A District 6, division) are growing stronger every season.

According to the Florida High School football website, entering the 2016 season 265 schools are now on the state roster representing an increase of nearly threefold since the sport’s modest beginning.

Thanks to the increase, the FHSAA has reportedly implemented a second classification for flag football in 2016 with 119 schools in Class 2A and 109 schools in Class 1A. Public schools in Miami-Dade County are also fielding the sport for the very first time. Close to 30 schools are also posting teams as independents.

Based on the numbers reported by www.floridahsfootball.com, more than a third of the 67 counties in Florida now have at least one team sponsoring flag football.

Winning two of its preseason games this year against Brandon (20-0) and St. Pete’s Northeast (22-6) respectively, the Bloomingdale Lady Bulls are just one of those local teams that have started the season strong.

The Bulls are facing a tough district line up with each program growing and building season by season. Bulls Head Coach Mike Lankford, spoke highly of his team’s strengths and positively of another season success.

“This is the most athletic team I have had in my five years with this program, and we are setting our goals high,” Lankford said. “We expect to win our district for the third year in a row, and make the state tournament for the first time ever.”

Lankford emphasized that the season’s focus is on defense.

“We have traditionally been very strong on defense, giving up less than five touchdowns in each of the last two years during the regular season,” he said, adding that on the other hand, offense, which returns seven starters, should be even more high powered. “We expect to score a lot of points.”

For a complete schedule, visit www.floridahsfootball.com. For more information about Bloomingdale athletics, visit www.sdhc.k12.fl.us.