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Flag football preview: ‘Horns, ‘Dogs, Storm look strong

Posted on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at 6:00 am

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

Harmony and St. Cloud each won their flag football districts in 2017, and the Longhorns came close to a second straight Class A state tournament appearance but fell 20-14 to Jensen Beach, who scored in the final minutes of the regional final.

St. Cloud plays in 2A District 5 with Celebration, Osceola, Gateway, Liberty, Cypress Creek, Freedom and Oak Ridge.

Harmony returns to A District 10 against Poinciana, East River, Edgewater and Jones.

The FHSAA announced this week that the state tournament will be at Boca Raton High School May 10-12.

Harmony

Under Coach Paul Strauch, the Longhorns have been the flag football standard in Osceola County for the better part of a decade. After playing for the Class A state championship in 2016 they were 12-3 last year, but will have to replace some key seniors like quarterback Shaye Herman, two-time county Player of the Year. Baylee Richards and Makayla Keene will work to replace her.

“Our roster is almost all seniors (seven) or sophomores (nine),” Strauch said.

Seniors Brooke Barber, Bryn Hudson and Chloe McCurdy will anchor the defense and help sophomores Taitiyana Taylor, Casey Clough, Jenna Butcofski and Adriana learn the scheme and “grow up fast.”

On offense, seniors Makenzie Griffin and Ryleigh Pellegrino will join underclassmen Bryn Hudson and Adriana Rodriguez on offense in the passing game. Athletes Angie Santos and senior Caitlin McHugh off the soccer team could have roles on offense and defense.

“In district, I expect Jones and East River to be tough,” Strauch said. “In county, St. Cloud is the team to beat as they return most of their team.  Osceola has some basketball girls playing and looked very good the other day.  Celebration will be tough because they have good athletes.  We found that out (last Friday in a 14-6 win). We are hoping to get better every game and we will see how that plays out record wise.”

That record is 3-0 to start the year after wins over Apopka, Celebration and a 20-0 district win over Edgewater Wednesday.

St. Cloud

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
St. Cloud sophomore quarterback Elly Schmidt returns to lead the Bulldogs offense.

The Bulldogs have clear goals under Coach Codie Nieder: three-peat the district title and win the OBCs, all possible with his returning impact players.

“Our team is composed of some of the hardest working ladies in this school both off and on the field,” he said.

Junior Rakela Cummings is “dangerous in the middle of the field” at linebacker and receiver. Senior center Megan Messersmith led the team in receptions last year, junior corner Kayla Blackwood led in pass breakups, and senior Ciera Enberg was the TD reception leader.

Those passes came from Elly Schmidt, who earned the starting job as a freshman and looks to maintain the momentum as a sophomore.

“Elly had an eye opening experience of playing QB on the varsity squad,” Nieder said. “She is more poised and confident in her decision making this year.”

He also said flag football is woven into the fabric of the school.

“At St. Cloud we have a teacher/player mentorship program, as well as the varsity squad picks out a JV player for their Big/Little relationship and help mentor them on and off the field,” Nieder said. “This game is more than just X’s and O’s we want them to walk away become a more confident, determined, successful young women after high school.”

St. Cloud played Celebration in a key District 2A-5 game Thursday, and play Harmony April 20 for OBC bragging rights. The Bulldogs head to Tallahassee in two weeks for three games in the Capital City Classic.

“Some of the best teams in the state play up there, and it’s a good taste of what the playoffs will be like,” Nieder said.

Celebration

The Storm reached the 2A-5 title game last year, falling to St. Cloud 7-6, but graduated some talented seniors. Still, Coach Gabe Roundtree calls it “reloading over rebuilding.”

News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock
Senior quarterback Gabby Suarez looks to get Celebration into the regional playofs after the Storm came up one point short in 2017.

“We have now added quality depth to our roster, I do not think we will lose much of a step,” he said. “Our motto this year is, ‘Play our game, Get back to the dance.”

Senior quarterback Gabbby Suarez returns, and fellow seniors Signe Pedersen and Georgia Tourelle will lead the offensive attack along with rising stars Sabrina Binet and Selina Rivera. Newcomers Vivian Ng and Andrea Echevarria add speed and hands to the receiving corps while freshman Charlotte Montgomery, the quarterback of the future, will split time playing wideout and rusher.

“Hopefully, our added depth will allow our rushers to disrupt many a backfield along with our ideals of execution and physicality allowing our overall defense to achieve many three-and-outs for opposing offenses,” Roundtree said.

Poinciana

The Eagles return three varsity players from last year, including all-conference senior middle linebacker Randa Smichi and junior running back Kayla Russell

“We are young, with only three seniors in the roster,” Coach Ryans Calmont said.

Other players to look out for will be juniors Yasamay Martinez and Francesca Previlus, sophomore Keyerra Stanley and freshman Nahomie Burgos, Calmont said.

Liberty

Susan Bagley takes over a program that returns four impact seniors: Mya Fanietty, Rayssa Corujo, Kaylin Moran and Frances Garcia.

All the seniors have stepped up,” the coach said. “Mya, Rayssa and Kaylin are playing on both sides of the ball and doing a good job. Frances has stepped into a new role for her at cornerback and has done a good job keeping receivers at bay.”

The rest of the team is comprised of former JV players and rookies. Freshman quarterback Marguerita Pena is growing into the position and shows promise, Bagley said. Juniors Tatiana Smith, Nicole Lennon and Tiara Burrell are contributing on both sides of the ball, and sophomore and are willing and able to play both sides of the ball.  Sophomores, Amara Morales has shown potential rushing the ball.

“What we lack in experience we are making up for with hard work at practice and I think we will hit our stride and be a formidable opponent by season’s end,” Bagley said.

Osceola

The Kowgirls are led by third-year coach Shaquana Morgan.