Athletic high school administrations around the nation and in Marion County have pushed the sport of flag football to higher heights recently. The first county-wide flag football tournament was held on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hollywood couldn’t have scripted a better ending for the championship game, won by Belleview 13-12 in overtime.
Both teams failed to convert on extra points, but it would be the difference in OT. Forest forced the extra period when senior Kania Dean ran a Pick Six back in the second half to knot the score at 6-all.
The Wildcats were the first to strike in extra minutes. Freshman Janiana Wess scored to give Forest a 12-6 lead, but the Wildcats failed to convert on the extra point.
Belleview answered when Dee Fisher – on a trick play – ran up the middle to tie the game at 12. Madison Douglass then sealed the deal on a slant pass from Hannah Mason to convert the extra point.
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“It’s funny the play that we ran we put in a week ago,” Belleview head coach Michael Pixley said. “It worked a couple times last night. I almost didn’t call it there, but I’m like, it’s second down, we’ll take a shot, and it just worked. I knew we had a play for the extra point. We just needed to execute, and they did.”
With our newly crowned champions celebrating their win, it’s time we look beyond the box score. Here are three takeaways from a memorable night of flag football.
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How both teams made their championship run
Belleview and Forest were undefeated in the county, coming into the championship game. The Wildcats had a point differential of 91, and the Rattlers had an 80.
Number one seed Forest topped long-time rival Vanguard 18-0 in their second head-to-head matchup of the season to reach the finals. Belleview recorded a 19-0 shutout over Lake Weir, their second time holding the Hurricanes this season, to push into the championship game.
Belleview and Forest meet again on Thursday, but if you think either team won’t remember this game, you’re sadly mistaken.
Forest defense is still epic
When the Ocala Star-Banner covered the Wildcats’ game against Vanguard in February, their defense blew us away. Six weeks later, it’s still a nightmare for opposing quarterbacks. In the championship game, Wess’ three interceptions led the way.
“She’s a special girl, but the whole defense is good,” Forest head coach Mike Elliott said. “She’s been doing it all year.”
Wess has 11 interceptions on the season. That’s a top-three mark in the county and places her in the top 10 of the state.
A look at Belleview’s resume
The Rattlers are the only undefeated team in the county. They’ve won those games by an average of 15.8 points. This week, they’ll matchup with North Marion to attempt the season sweep.
Jakyra Bostick is on the verge of entering the top 10 in interceptions in the state after snagging a pair of interceptions against Forest. She’s also top 50 in the state with 308 rushing yards and 68 points through eight games.
“She (Bostick) is really reliable,” Pixley said. “We’ve had injuries and other things go on this year, and she’s been a constant.”
The Rattlers are a young team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. They start two freshmen and two sophomores, one being Mason, who threw the game-winning extra point. Their are no seniors on offense. Their senior leadership comes on the defensive end, with Emma Brantley and Kelivina Dantzler holding down the linebacker spots.
Districts are two weeks away for this young ball club, and they’re ready to make their mark. They’ve shown their capability of winning big games all season. Soon, it will be time to produce a successful playoff run.