BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Seabreeze High School has had the best local girls flag football program in recent years.
The Sandcrabs have won district titles and made it to the playoffs over the past two seasons, including last year’s squad that went 10-2 before losing to St. Cloud Harmony High 7-0 in the regional semifinals.
Seabreeze has won three district titles and made three playoff appearances since 2011. The team has five total district titles and five total playoffs appearances.
A great start
Girls Flag Football became a sanctioned sport by the Florida High School Athletic Association (FHSAA) back in 2003. Only the winner of the district tournament makes the playoffs.
This year, the girls are off to a 3-1 start with their lone defeat coming in an upset lost by one point to Palm Coast Matanzas in overtime.
“We look great. We’re getting better. Our lone lost was by just one point. There were some unfortunate plays in that game but still both the girls and coaches are having fun. We have a really good chance of having a great season,” said Head Coach Michael Fries.
The season runs through April 20 with district tournaments May 2-3. The playoffs begin May 12 and the state title game is scheduled for May 20.
An unlikely coach
Fries is in his first year with the program.
“It’s has been a little stressful keeping up the tradition. We did lose our star quarterback and we have a new coaching staff. Parents aren’t always as receptive as you would like them to be, but its’ starting to work out,” said Fries.
He admits that he is an unlikely coach.
Fries said, “I’m a wrestling guy who played one year in high school. I thought I was going to coach wrestling when I became a teacher. I was the defensive backs coach for the tackling team (boys).
“When our principal offered me this position, I just had to take it. I did it to learn about the sport.
As the season went along I have had so much fun. These girls are athletic, coachable and they make it a fun game. It’s amazing coaching them. I am glad that the sport is getting the recognition it deserves. Our team now has pre-game meals. The girls’ attitudes have been wonderful,’’ he added.
Seabreeze lost star quarterback McKenzie Bowlus to graduation but freshman Bailey McQuarrie has stepped in.
“It’s been a lot of pressure sometimes living up to her hype and the team’s expectations, but we’re playing really well together and I believe that we can be even better,” said McQuarrie.
“She has really stepped up and played well. She has even taken on a leadership role,” added Fries.
Seabreeze has weapons at receiver with senior Shaelyn Commette, juniors Taylor Nirschl and Christine Helem as well as freshman Kara Hass.
Their defense is led by senior rusher/linebacker Kylee Howland and junior linebacker Brianna Harkins.
The girls feel good about this team.
Hawkins responded, “We’re all committed. We all work hard together even in practice. We are also having fun.”
“The chemistry is good and we can all trust each other,” echoed Hash.
Players like Commette been on the team for the past four years; she has been a part of the program’s success and has seen the sport grow.
“I think living up to the pressure makes us all work harder. The new coaching staff have brought another approach. Also, I think the sport has become more popular in years with more support around campus,’’ she remarked.
Eyeing state title
The coach also has confidence in his squad.
“We are actually pretty good all around on both sides of the ball. Every position needs work no matter how good we are, but I am really happy with how we are playing,’’ he related.
Winning a state championship is the goal.
“We just have to continue to work hard. We used to have 40 minute practices; now we go two hours. We need to keep backing each other up and continue to have each other’s backs,” he explained.
“If we do that, we’ll have a chance. The goal is to get to the state final and give ourselves a chance to win. I think we have the athletes to do it, but we just have to go and play.’’