Photo courtesy of the Lennard High School girls flag football program.

The up-and-coming Lennard High School girls flag football program was one of four teams chosen by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Foundation to participate in an exhibition showcase at the NFL Super Bowl Experience in Julian B. Lane Park during the week of Super Bowl LV.

“It was such a fun time, and I got to experience and see a lot of new things,” said junior Lexi Mosley. “I will always remember the feeling of being one of the four teams in Hillsborough County to be picked to play at the NFL Experience.”

The Longhorns received new equipment from Nike and the NFL as a part of the $5 million grant that will go towards girls flag football programs throughout the country. Nike equipped them with new uniforms, cleats, sports bras, gloves, compression shorts and headbands.

According to Nike, one million more boys play high school sports than girls do. This campaign hopes to make girls flag football a varsity sport and spread it throughout the country, as it is one of the fastest-growing female sports. Currently, only six states have girls flag football programs at the high school level, including Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada and New York.

“It was a lot of fun. We faced adversity against Alonso, and our coaches helped us face it head on,” said junior Daija Fanning. “I will always remember us scoring and everyone on our team getting excited. What I will take from this is to work hard and never give up.”

Along with Lennard, Robinson High School, Alonso High School and Newsome High School’s flag football programs all participated in the event. The Longhorns took on the back-to-back (2018 and 2019) 2A state champion Alonso Ravens. They came up a little short against the Ravens, losing 13-7, but will always remember the opportunity to compete in front of an electric crowd.

“It’s really cool to showcase the game to people who haven’t seen it,” said second-year Head Coach Travis Combs. “It’s a really cool thing to be able to play in front of people that were from all over the country—that were from states that didn’t have flag football. The kids will probably never get to experience something like this again. The NFL, Nike and the Bucs do things the right way and they went above and beyond anything I ever thought possible, and we are truly humbled and grateful for that.”

The Longhorns have high expectations for the 2021 season, with hopes of winning a state title.

“My individual goal is to keep practicing and become a better player every day,” said senior Lizbeth Rubi. “My team goal is to push ourselves, work harder and strive to become state champs.”

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Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.