MOULTRIE — It’s no secret that this fall is the inaugural season for the flag football program at Colquitt County High School. The first official game is about two months away, with their first summer tournament being much sooner than that.
“Fast, focus, fun,” said head coach Kirk Woodall. “That’s what we are trying to do this year. The game is fast so the girls will have to learn speed. There are a lot of rules and techniques to learn in a short timeframe, so they have to focus. And mostly, I just want it to be fun for everybody.”
For many of the Lady Packers who made the team, they have enjoyed playing backyard football with brothers, dads, uncles, who were Packers football players and the girls enjoyed playing the sport with their families and wanted more.
Now, it’s their time to shine on the football field in an official capacity for the Lady Packers.
“It’s nice to have another avenue for girls to play at the competitive level instead of just the typical basketball and softball,” said assistant head coach Tiffanie Young, who has experience in a plethora of sports in the Packer and Lady Packer programs, including soccer, basketball, softball, track and field and football. “This gives more girls the opportunity to play at the college level and even potentially play at the professional level. It’s growing, you know?”
Thirty-four of the CCHS athletes who tried out for the 2023 flag football team will have their names memorialized on the inaugural roster:
Araja Arnold, Amaya Jordan, Demetri Kinsey, Dalyn Monk, Ta’Ayona Singletary, Leah Toomer, Ali’sia Johnson, Candelaria Tercero-Bernabe, Melissa Breedlove, Carolina Brown, Sara Cooper, Ariana Daniels, Mashatla Davis, Emily Holweger, Caylnn Singletary, Darnasia Slaughter, Jiliah Smith, Montana Tatum, Aniya Williams, Ta’Meria, Messiah Bender, Ava Brooks, Ki’Myra Crawford, Ta’Lisa Edwards, Maris Hopper, Nyleigha Knighton, Saliva McBride, Jamya Moore, Carli Pearson, D’Zeriyah Polite, Ellis Turnipseed, Saniyah Bowman and Isela (Sela) Garcia as the team’s student manager.
“It’s a few more than I originally wanted,” said Woodall. “But, a lot of them are dual sport athletes so they will do well. We keep an understanding though that wherever their other sport is that they play remains their primary sport. I’d love to have them all at practice every time, but if they have a game or even an important practice then they need to be there instead.”
The majority of the dual sport athletes come from softball, which also plays in the fall, but basketball’s also a popular dual sport.
“It’s a great group of girls,” said Young. “I’ve coached some in basketball, weightlifting and had others in class. I know how great they are and what they can do.”
There are already 13 games currently scheduled for the 2023 schedule, with the hope of adding more.
“We are allowed to play 20 games over a 10 day period,” said Woodall. “Right now, we do have some gaps in the schedule, but I am working to fill those.”
The 2023 schedule will be released closer to the season’s start, but as of right now the majority of games are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“I was overwhelmed with the support the girls received on the scrimmage game during tryouts,” said Woodall.” Hopefully, when we play our first home game, hopefully at Mack Tharpe Stadium, we will get the same level of excitement. I’d love to see the entire middle section full.
Until the first of those 13 games begins, the Lady Packers are hard at work preparing.
“This summer we will have practice three times a week in the morning,” said Woodall. “And then twice a week the girls will have the opportunity to weight train. So, they will both practice and lift throughout the summer.”
To start, practice will interchange between offensive and defensive plays until everyone’s strengths are better revealed, but certain aspects have already been ground in.
“The girls quickly got to where they understood during practice we have three non-negotiables: ladders, agility cones and mirror drills. It will help them with blocks and keeping in front of someone.”
Though the goal is to hold that state championship trophy at the end of the season, and the girls are certainly putting in the right level of grit and determination during practices, they also have fun.
“I have never been on a football field where you laugh and smile so much,” said Woodall. “They were all so excited and having a blast that you couldn’t help but smile and laugh right along with them, but they were all also so willing to learn.”
With so much to do and learn in this brand-new program, Woodall knew he needed to bring in all the assistance he could find.
“I’m trying to do my part and bring in people with a wealth of knowledge to help,” said Woodall. “That’s why I asked Tiffanie to be the assistant coach. She understands so much about sports. Even during the tryouts the girls were bunching up and she noticed and told them to spread out and by the end of tryouts longer plays were being run.”
Another person that Woodall brought on to help the team during practice and at games was Colquitt County Deputy Sheriff Ricky Abbott, who has worked as a school resource officer for CCHS for the last four years this coming July, and has a tremendous amount of knowledge about flag football.
“I played for 10 years on an adult team in Thomasville,” said Abbott. “I have quite a bit of experience with the sport. Right now, it’s all about learning the plays and the actual flag pulls.”
Grabbing that flag, holding onto it, and pulling isn’t always as easy as it sounds.
“It’s got a little clip on it that holds it in,” said Abbott. “After you score a touchdown you have to hold your arms up and the official comes over and pulls the belt off to make sure it wasn’t tied on.”
The last group of people that Woodall recruited for the team aren’t experts in the sport, but they will assist in other ways that are tremendously needed.
“I had 11 parents interested in being a part of the booster club and to help found it,” said Woodall. “I told everyone, you aren’t here because you are the biggest donor, but because you are willing to donate the biggest amount of time. This is the first season, it’s going to take a lot of time.”
The flag football booster club will be finalized within the coming weeks, and summer fundraisers are on the way.
“I would really love to purchase all the girls’ cleats and a warm-up outfit to make us look like an official team,” said Woodall. “I also really want to thank the school and the athletics program because they really helped us out and purchased the girls jerseys, but I would really love to be able to pay them back.”
Other financial purchases many may not consider that each sport program at CCHS must plan for are: food for the athletes before and after the games, transportation to and from away games, some including hotel stays, and the exciting and anticipated end of season banquet where all the trophies and plaques are given out with a yummy southern-cooked catered dinner.
It adds up quicker than one realizes, and right now the program is still working to work out the budget for the 2023 season.
Those who wish to assist the program and help ensure flag football remains a part of Colquitt County at the high school level can donate through the athletics program and simply flag your donation to flag football.
Anyways, as soon as the booster club is finalized and the account formed, the money will transfer over, and fundraisers will begin.
Also, don’t forget to mark your calendar for the flag football tournament hosted by Lowndes on June 17. It’s a day-long tournament the Lady Packers will be participating in and they encourage everyone to drive over and support this new program.
“You come out and support the guys,” said Abbott, referring to the community. “Do the same for the girls. I guarantee you they will show you the same level of energy as the boys give on Friday nights.”