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Ravenwood three-peats as WillCo girls flag football champions | Sports - FlagSpin

Ravenwood three-peats as WillCo girls flag football champions | Sports

“Three-peat” chants rang out from the Ravenwood fans as the Raptors celebrated their Williamson County flag football championship.

Ravenwood won its third straight title in the three-year history of the new league with a 28-21 win over previously unbeaten Page at Centennial on Sunday.

“Oh, it’s amazing,” Ravenwood coach Jessica Mancini said. “They knew coming in the hype about winning, the two in a row, and they really wanted to push to get that third. We lost that one game to Page in the beginning, so it felt right to beat them in the end.”

Ravenwood (9-2) avenged an early-season loss to Page (10-1).

The final was tied at 21 when senior Emma Rayl threw the winning touchdown pass to Lexi Grundler on a 15-yard corner route with 4:52 left.

“Well, I put all my trust in Lexi Grundler,” Rayl said. “She’s an amazing receiver. The safety kind of shifted over towards her, but I knew that she would come down with it.”

Grundler was well-covered on the left side of the end zone, but she out-leaped the defenders.

“The adrenaline that runs through your body when that happens, it’s insane and I’m just extremely grateful,” Rayl said of the winning play.

Grundler, a 5-foot-10 Michigan State soccer signee as a goalkeeper, took eight steps before turning to the outside to make the big catch.

“My body was in between me and the defender, so I just went up and got it,” Grundler said. “They were sometimes double-covering me, so I didn’t know if I was gonna even get the ball.”

Grundler said her goalkeeper skills help her as a receiver.

‘It is so similar,” Grundler said. “It’s probably the best sport that I could have played to help me with my soccer game. All I have to do is just imagine I’m going after (the ball) in soccer. It’s just like picking off a cross being a goalie.”

Grundler has played goalie for 10 years since she was 8 years old.

Repeating is nothing new for her. Ravenwood won its second consecutive state soccer championship when she was a freshman.

“No. 13 took over the game and we didn’t have an answer, and that’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Page coach Charles Rathbone said of Grundler.

Rathbone was hoping Grundler’s catch would be ruled out of bounds as she pulled the ball in near the sideline.

“We couldn’t tell if she was out of bounds,” Rathbone said. “I mean, it’s the far sideline, so I’m sure they made the right call. It had to be awfully close because the two officials looked at each other for a couple of seconds and then they ruled she was inbounds.”

Page beat Brentwood 20-14 in Sunday’s quarterfinals before edging Summit 14-6 in a semifinal.

The Patriots finished runner-up to Ravenwood during the first flag football season in 2022 before losing to Summit in the first round last spring.

Second place has become a familiar place for Page, considering Rathbone’s boys football team finished runner-up in Class 5A the past three seasons.

The curse of undefeated flag football teams continued as the Patriots suffered their first loss in the final.

Franklin went 8-0 during the previous two regular seasons, but couldn’t win the title.

“When you win them all and you get there, sometimes you run into something you haven’t seen in the (regular) season and you don’t know how to refocus and get back to what got you there,” Rathbone said. “I don’t know if it’s a curse, I don’t believe in curses. Beating a good team twice is rough.”

Page led in most of its games, so rallying from a deficit was unfamiliar territory.

Ravenwood led 21-13 early in the second half before Page tied the game at 21 on a 30-yard touchdown pass and a two-point conversion pass.

The Raptors beat Franklin 19-6 in a quarterfinal before defeating Nolensville 34-14 in the semifinals.

Mancini gave the game ball to Rayl after Ravenwood won the title.

“You put so much pressure on the quarterback,” Mancini said. “If they falter, the entire offense sometimes falls apart and for her to waver a little bit throughout the season, but keep on pushing – that means everything to a coach. That’s what you want to see.”

Page and Summit beat Ravenwood during the regular season, but Mancini emphasized the importance of the tournament.

Flag football will be sanctioned by the TSSAA next season, which will make Tennessee the 12th state the sport is sanctioned in nationwide.

Williamson County athletic director Darrin Joines labeled the nine Williamson County teams as “pioneers” during the postgame awards ceremony.

“Oh, flag is gonna take over, I think,” said Mancini, who coached Ravenwood’s girls soccer team to a state runner-up finish in the fall. “I mean, it’ so fun. One of my favorite things is watching the fathers get involved with their daughters playing football. I absolutely love watching that. I think the boys are going to be jealous, and they’re going to want to play flag.”

The Williamson County league was established in partnership with the Tennessee Titans.

Nashville will have one of the four men’s teams in an inaugural pro flag league next year.

Rayl, who also played basketball, said flag football became more serious at Ravenwood this season.

“We were going to film sessions every day in school,” Rayl said. “Just whenever anyone was available, we were always doing football.”

The Ravenwood boys football team, a 6A quarterfinalist last season, cheered on the flag team.

“They showed out for almost every game,” Rayl said. “That was nice to have that support from them.

Other quarterfinals

Nolensville 13, Fairview 12

Summit 7, Centennial 6

Play-in game

Brentwood 24, Independence 13

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