Kingston High’s Keeley Savona hikes the ball to quarterback Caroline Connolly during practice in Kingston, N.Y., on Friday, March 31, 2023. Behind her getting set to run is Micayla Sandy. (Tania Barricklo/Daily Freeman)
KINGSTON, N.Y. — The dawn of a new era will begin when the first Kingston High girls flag football team takes the field for its varsity debut on Wednesday, April 12. at Newburgh Free Academy.
Coach Mike Dittus and his players didn’t let the frigid temperatures during Friday’s practice at the turf field next to the Kate Walton Field House curb their enthusiasm for the season opener less than two weeks away.
“The girls are tired of practicing against each other after a while,” Dittus said. “They want to play somebody.”
Kingston is one of 15 teams in Section 9 to start flag football in 2023. Girls flag football games are seven-on-seven competitions with all players eligible to catch a pass, including the center. There is no blocking with offensive linemen shielding defenders from the quarterback. They aren’t permitted to use their hands.
Dittus has liked what he’s seen from his 22-girl roster in preseason scrimmages.
“I’ve been pleased,” Dittus said. “They took what they’ve been doing on the practice field to the game field. We made some improvements and corrections after the first scrimmage. The defense didn’t give up any touchdowns and the offense was pretty sharp. We had a real nice rhythm on offense and we’re looking forward to building on it.”
The offense figures to be wide open, featuring a pass-happy attack run by quarterback Caroline Connolly.
“She’s got some zip on the ball and is really smart,” Dittus said of Connolly. “The offense is mostly passing. We sprinkle in
the run, but I’d say it’s about 75 percent passing.”
Connolly said she thinks the running game will be an integral part of the offense, though.
“We’ve had a lot of luck with our run plays,” she said. “We still have work to do with catching the ball, but it comes with time. At the beginning of the season, we weren’t catching everything. But it’s weird if we don’t catch every ball now.”
Dittus feels Kingston has a lot of speedy wide receivers and running backs to catch Connolly’s passes. He expects big things
from Mackenzie Martin, Hannah Tampasis, Ella DeKoskie and Jordan Perry.
Center Keeley Savona has looked good catching passes too, Dittus said.
“She has very good route running skills and has good hands,” Dittus said. “And her football IQ is through the roof.”
Similar to the XFL, kicking extra points is not allowed. Teams will get one point if they run or pass it into the end zone from the 3-yard line. Two points will be awarded for a successful conversion from the 10 and three points will be awarded for a score from 20 yards out.
“That can lead to some interesting decisions after touchdowns,” Dittus said. “And you have to make them on the fly. You only have 25 seconds to decide.”
Keith VanRoy, who is the Kingston football team’s defensive coordinator, also has those duties for the girls flag football team.
“He’s teaching the girls all the same stuff that we’re teaching the boys,” Dittus said.
Dittus said he doesn’t want to make any predictions going into the first game.
“All I can see right now is Newburgh,” he said. “If I start looking past Newburgh, that’s when I’m going to start tripping up. We’ll go down there, play our game and see what happens.”
Martin thinks Kingston should have a good season.
“We’ve definitely had some success in the scrimmages,” she said. “I think the other schools are definitely behind us because
we have been really working hard in practice every day. We don’t have any multi-sport athletes. Everyone is committed to
this team as a varsity sport.”
Tampasis, a wide receiver and linebacker, said the Tigers have done well in their scrimmages leading up to the season opener.
“It’s been so much fun,” she said. “I love working with the team. We’ve really worked hard in practice and it’s really showed in the scrimmages.”
Tampasis is excited to start the season against archrival Newburgh.
“We all know how Kingston and Newburgh are with football,” she said.
The Tigers’ first home game will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 14, aganst Monroe-Woodbury on Field No. 3 at M. Clifford Miller