The Orange Belt Conference girls flag football title, which has historically been passed back and forth by Harmony and St. Cloud, looks to be in the clutches of Gateway for the first time.
In their first six games the Panthers (5-1) have already knocked off defending OBC champ Harmony, 12-0, and St. Cloud, another state-ranked team, 19-13 in overtime. They beat rival Osceola, 20-7, on Tuesday.
Wins at Celebration Thursday, against Poinciana on Monday and Tohopekaliga next Friday will lock up that crown.
The next step will be to qualify for the District 2A-5 tournament; Gateway was already 4-0 going into a Tuesday night game against Osceola. Only the top four teams in the 11-team district will survive to play April 23-25 at Freedom High.
Panthers Coach Travis Hill said the team’s play is based on a group of seniors he’s coached for three or four years now.
“This year’s team has been playing together since they were freshmen and sophomores so they have been playing together for awhile,” he said. “I fully believe that we will make it to the postseason, my girls are hungry and are playing on a whole new level.”
Junior Gyomara Ramos is the mobile quarterback capable of thinking on the run.
“She can read a defense and she makes pretty good decisions when passing the ball, if I do not signal in a play she will call her own and majority of the time it works out for us,” Hill said.
Senior Anissa Tuitt, coming off becoming the school’s first-ever 1,000-point girls basketball scorer, is making plays at receiver and defensive back, along with junior Ashley Toussaint.
“They both believe that when the ball is in the air, it is their ball and they will fight tooth and nail with a defender or receiver to make the catch,” Hill said.
Kiarra Serrano plays the slot and junior Angelique Torres runs the ball.
Harmony, which has been deep in there regional playoffs and to the state tournament multiple times, is still a frontrunner to win District A-10. The Longhorns lost to Jones, 7-0, in the district title game — only district champions move on to the regional playoffs — but key players return like the QB-to-WR combo of Baylee Richards and reigning county player of the year Bryn Hudson.
Taitiyana Taylor has been making plays for years at linebacker, Adriana Rodriguez (WR/LB) is in her third varsity year, and young athletically-gifted Reinna Scott, Drew Adkins and Thora Gaston and sophomore Reigan Pellegrino are also contributing already.
Seniors Ty Green, Jaylen Smith and Cassy Sullivan contribute mostly on offense, as well as junior center Casey Clough. Juniors Gracie Moore and Makenzie Kish are starting junior cornerbacks.
With wins over East River, Edgewater, Poinciana and a 25-0 one over Jones on Tuesday, the Longhorns have clinched a top-four spot in A-10.
“We already have OBC wins against Celebration, Poinciana and Liberty, but obviously Gateway could be OBC champs and the rest of us are chasing for second,” HHS Coach Paul Strauch said.
Poinciana sits at 3-3 after a 13-0 win over Edgewater Tuesady, and could derail Gateway’s plans next week. Senior running back and rusher Kayla Russell had a stellar junior season.
“Two of our losses are when we played without three of our top four players,” PHS Coach Ryans Calmont said.
Also on Tuesday, Celebration defeated Lake Nona, 32-7.