The Lennard High School girls’ flag football team, 19-4 overall, lost on the last play of the state championship game to Miami Palmetto High School 26-25. (Photos courtesy of JDX PIXELS and Mike and Sean Gallagher.)

The Lennard High School girls’ flag football team has set the bar high for the young program, giving future teams something to shoot for. The team, 19-4 overall this season, lost on the last play of the state championship game to Miami Palmetto High School 26-25.

The Lady Longhorns won their first district and regional championship this season. Fifth-year head coach Travis Combs said that the team was very successful this year because of their team chemistry. He said that the players went out for ice cream after games, spent a lot of time together off the field and played for each other. 

The team was led by four-year starting quarterback Abby Elwell. The two-year team captain finished her senior year as the school’s all-time leading passer and touchdown leader with 16,794 yards and 242 touchdowns. She has the most wins as a QB with 63. Elwell was named the County Player of the Year and 2A Florida Dairy Farmers Player of the Year. 

The defense, led by four-year varsity player Grayce Bird, had 12 shutouts, including a 14-0 win against Newsome High School in the playoffs to advance to states. Combs said that the safety battled through injuries this season but was the heart and soul of the defense with seven interceptions. Layla Crawford led the team in flag pulls and interceptions and was named defensive MVP, and Kate Keith was one of the best centers in the country. Receiver/safety Kyah Vance had her best overall season and stepped in for Bird when she was injured. On offense, Sydney Elizondo had over 1,000 yards receiving and will compete for the starting quarterback job next season.

“What makes me most proud about this group is that they decided they wanted to go for it a long time before it was time to go for it,” said Combs. “They decided that they wanted to put in the work and do what it takes to take Lennard from a program that was kind of forgotten about to being state recognized, and that took a lot of hours in the offseason. Their commitment, work ethic, selflessness and mental toughness, those things I’m really proud of this group for.”

Combs will have to replace six seniors from the 2024 team. Most of those players will play for the same club team, the South Shore Stampede, this offseason.

“It’s time to get other girls to step up and get some new leadership. Our mantra is ‘it’s process driven.’ It’s time to get back into that process,” said Combs. “I love coaching, I love working with the group, I like challenges — this is a new challenge. It’s going to be different. It’s exciting. It’s time to get to work so that 2025 can be special.”

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Nick Nahas
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.