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Newport Harbor’s Maia Helmar is the O.C. player of the year – Orange County Register - FlagSpin

Newport Harbor’s Maia Helmar is the O.C. player of the year – Orange County Register

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ALL-COUNTY GIRLS FLAG FOOTBALL TEAM 2023

Newport Harbor quarterback Maia Helmar throws the ball during the final of the Beckman SoCal Showcase girls' flag football tournament against Woodbridge on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)
Newport Harbor quarterback Maia Helmar throws the ball during the final of the Beckman SoCal Showcase girls’ flag football tournament against Woodbridge on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Maia Helmar, Newport Harbor, Jr.

Maia Helmar didn’t play her most natural position in flag football this fall for Newport Harbor.

The junior moved to quarterback for the first time and gave up wide receiver, the position that she plays on the Conquer club.

Helmar made the switch to help the Sailors succeed, and that’s exactly what they did during the first season of the sport in the CIF Southern Section.

With Helmar throwing touchdown passes to a talented cast of wide receivers, Newport Harbor (25-1) won the Sunset League — arguably Orange County’s strongest grouping — and finished its season ranked No. 1 in the nation for the season by MaxPreps.

Helmar is Orange County’s first girls flag football player of the year.

“Phenomenal,” Newport Harbor coach Jason Guyser said of Helmar’s season. “She took on and mastered the most difficult and important position despite never playing it before and preferring to play wide receiver, (and did it) all for betterment of the team.

“We don’t have the magical year we had without her taking that role.”

Helmar leaned on her throwing experience from playing softball to toss long touchdowns against top teams such as Woodbridge (25-2) and Corona del Mar (21-6).

The Sailors won two of their three games against Woodbridge, which finished its season ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Helmar punctuated Newport Harbor’s 14-0 run through the Sunset League by throwing four touchdown passes in a 27-0 victory against Corona del Mar. She flashed her arm strength with a 30-yard TD strike to Ella Woods.

“Maia has an incredible arm,” Guyser said,

Helmar’s contributions weren’t only at quarterback. She also excelled as an outside linebacker on defense.

Newport Harbor counted on Helmar to pull flags on running plays or grab an interception like she did against Corona del Mar on Oct. 11.

Helmar was selected the Sunset League’s MVP and has been invited to a tryout with the 17-and-under national team in March.

Helmar also loves playing soccer and softball.

“I definitely want to play a sport in college,” she said. “I want to keep my options open. Hopefully, I have opportunities in every sport. I’m putting my all into every sport.”

COACH OF THE YEAR

Jimmy Valverde, Esperanza

Esperanza's Jimmy Valverde is The Register's Orange County girls flag football coach of the year for 2023. (File photo, Orange County Register/SCNG)
Esperanza’s Jimmy Valverde is The Register’s Orange County girls flag football coach of the year for 2023. (File photo, Orange County Register/SCNG)

One of Jimmy Valverde’s strengths as a coach is his versatility. He’s experienced guiding multiple age-groups and sports.

At Esperanza, he’s best known as the successful girls basketball coach but this fall he added the new sport. He became the school’s first girls flag football coach as the sport debuted in the CIF Southern Section.

Valverde not only adapted to the challenges, he helped the Aztecs thrive. Esperanza went 25-0, captured the Crestview League title and finished its season second to Newport Harbor in the national fall rankings by MaxPreps.

Valverde is the first Orange County coach of the year in girls flag football.

“I had the best athletes a coach could ever want,” he said. “Each player was willing to give their all to get better at every practice. And how they became such great teammates, always believing and caring for one another in such a short time, encouraged me.”

ALL-COUNTY FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Maia Helmar, Newport Harbor, Jr. (Player of the year)

QB: Teagan Burrus, Woodbridge, Sr.: The strong-armed passer and Chargers’ all-star helped the Warriors win the Beckman SoCal Showcase.

C: Leah Schulman, University, Sr.: The center earned first-team All-Pacific Coast League honors.

WR: Jaiden Anderson, Huntington Beach, Sr.: The USC-committed soccer player earned first-team All-Sunset League honors.

WR: Ellie Frazier, Esperanza, So.: Frazier had 100 receptions for 1,268 yards and 24 TDs, and grabbed 11 interceptions on defense.

WR: Gigi Ganje, Aliso Niguel, Sr.: The Penn-bound softball player earned South Coast League MVP after posting 98 receptions and 27 interceptions on defense.

WR: Kate Kubiak, Newport Harbor, Sr.: The Oregon-bound soccer player made first-team All-Sunset League.

Woodbridge's Tori Zebko carries the ball during the final of the Beckman SoCal Showcase girls' flag football tournament against Newport Harbor on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)
Woodbridge’s Tori Zebko carries the ball during the final of the Beckman SoCal Showcase girls’ flag football tournament against Newport Harbor on Saturday, September 9, 2023. Photo by Jeff Antenore, Contributing Photographer)

WR: Tori Zebko, Woodbridge, Sr.: The first-team All-Pacific Coast League selection was a top target for Teagan Burrus.

All-Purpose: Makena Cook, Orange Lutheran, Fr.: The Trinity League MVP played quarterback and defense to help the Lancers finished second in the Chargers’ season-ending tournament.

DEFENSE

DL: Taylor Shumaker, Esperanza, Sr.: The Florida-bound softball player and Chargers’ all-star racked up 10 sacks and caught 16 touchdowns.

LB: Bailey Frazier, Esperanza, Sr.: The first-team All-Crestview League selection led the Aztecs in flags pulled (102) and had 127 receptions for 1,481 yards and 14 TDs.

LB: Erika Wein, Corona del Mar, Sr.: The first-team All-Sunset League selection helped the Sea Kings finish second to Newport Harbor in league with an 11-3 record.

DB: Audrey Burns, Newport Harbor, Jr.: The first-team All-Sunset League selection excelled in coverage and pulling flags at cornerback.

DB: Cooper Dick, Newport Harbor, So.: The first-team All-Sunset League pick contributed to arguably the best defense in the county.

DB: Milan Heisdorf, Woodbridge, Sr.: The Pacific Coast League MVP and UC Irvine-bound soccer player was a two-way standout.

DB: Madi Lam, Esperanza, So.: The Crestview League MVP passed for 5,584 yards and 91 TDs and also collected 13 interceptions on defense.

ALL-COUNTY SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

QB: Katie Meneses, Rosary, Sr.

C: Kaitlyn Leibe, Newport Harbor, Sr.

RB: Alia Pasternak, Huntington Beach, Jr.

WR: Kassidy Beach, Los Alamitos, Sr.

WR: Zoey Ceman, Woodbridge, Jr.

WR: Hayli McIlroy, Crean Lutheran, So.

WR: Alexis Quon, Esperanza, Sr.

WR: Sicily Windham, Crean Lutheran, Sr.

All-Purpose: Alexa Rokos, Corona del Mar, Jr.

DEFENSE

DL: Emma Chaix, Newport Harbor, Sr.

LB: Cassidy Driscoll, Orange Lutheran, Sr.

LB: Harlee Thomas, Edison, Sr.

DB: Kennedy Bowe, Los Alamitos, Jr.

DB: Aspen Castillo, Marina, Sr.

DB: Riley Crooks, Edison, Jr.

DB: Audrey Kays, Mission Viejo, Jr.

The teams were selected by consulting coaches, all-league lists, all-star rosters and reporter’s observations.

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Travis Burnett

Travis Burnett

A pioneer in the flag football community, Travis helped co-found the Flag Football World Championship Tour, FlagSpin and USA Flag. Featuring 15+ years of content creation for the sport of flag football, creating and managing the largest flag football tournaments on the planet, coaching experience at the youth and adult level as well as an active player with National and World Championship level experience.

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