Leffew powered Lady Horns to state
News-Gazette Photo/Andrew Sullivan
Sage Leffew was the hub of an offense that carried Harmony to the state flag football tournament.
QB leads all-county team for third time
By J. Daniel Pearson
For the News-Gazette
Sage Leffew is most likely running out of shelf space for awards. After being named the Osceola Gazette’s Girl’s Soccer Player of the Year earlier this year, Leffew is now the Flag Football Player of the Year for a third consecutive time.
Leffew guided the Longhorns to a perfect regular season in 2014 and a first-ever trip to the Florida High School Athletic Association State Finals in Tallahassee.
Harmony lost in the quarterfinal round to eventual state champion Tampa Robinson.
But, for Leffew and her teammates, getting there was the major goal of the season. In both her sophomore and junior seasons, Harmony fell one game short of state tournament – losing a pair of heartbreaking games to Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High School.
Leffew was not going to let it happen again.
In the second round of the state play-in games (flag football does not divide into divisions and all 174 schools compete in one bracket), Leffew rushed for 252 yards, passed for 102 more yards and accounted for all four touchdowns to power the Longhorns past a strong Tampa Bay Armwood team, 27-18, to send an Osceola team to the finals for the first time ever.
“We were bitterly disappointed in not making it to states the last couple of years,” Leffew said after the Armwood game. “We had it in our grasp both years and lost in the last minute. “We were just determined that it was not going to happen again.”
The performance was typical of the type of play displayed whenever Leffew was on the field. During the season, the Longhorns won their first 15 games. Leffew threw 46 touchdown passes, the most in Central Florida, and ran for 16 more.
Leffew injured her knee against Armwood, but she said that did not make a difference at the state tournament, when the Horns were stunned by Robinson, 46-0.
“It wasn’t an issue for me, I felt fine. The trainers did a great job with the ice therapy,” she said. “They (Robinson) did some different things that we haven’t seen before. Before we could adjust, they were way ahead,” she said. “Credit to them for being a good team.”
Her coach, Paul Strauch, said Leffew gave Harmony an advantage each time it took the field.
“Her overall athleticism made her the best player on the field. There’s no doubt that she’s one of the most athletic girls I’ve ever seen,” Strauch said. “It didn’t matter where the ball was on the field, anytime Sage touched the ball, there was a potential for a touchdown. Few athletes have that kind of game-changing ability.”
Leffew’s offensive prowess alone would have been enough to claim Player of the Year honors. But she was also a star defensive player for the Longhorns. Playing defensive back, she intercepted five passes and returned two for touchdowns and also returned two punts for score.
Although sensational, her 66 touchdown plays in 2014 were typical of her career. After becoming the starting quarterback at the beginning of her sophomore year, Leffew guided the Longhorns to a 35-3 record. All three losses came in the post-season. She never lost to an Orange Belt Conference opponent.
Her career stats included 79 touchdown passes, 40 rushing touchdowns, four touchdowns receiving, five interception returns for touchdowns and four punt returns for touchdowns. She accounted for an astonishing 132 career touchdowns.
Counting her freshman year, when she played receiver and defensive back, Leffew helped Harmony to a four-year mark of 45-4.
“Football is a team sport and Sage will be the first to deflect any praise to her teammates,” Strauch said. “But she was simply our best player for the last three years and you want to put your best player in position to make plays. Sage playing quarterback and defensive back gave us that chance. Anytime she was on the field, something special could happen. Every year, she got better as a player and as a leader.”
Leffew will play soccer at Northwestern State University in Louisiana and she is training hard for that task.
She played this summer with a women’s 20-U soccer travel team to prepare, and that gave her a chance to play with several college players, including her former Harmony teammate Kendall Pollock.
But, she said that she will miss the excitement of flag football.
“Football is my favorite sport. If it was a varsity sport in college, I would definitely try to play at that level. I know I will miss it,” she said.