One thing Richmond Hill girls flag football coach Tony Dragon learned in his first year of coaching the inaugural season of the varsity sport in Georgia — actually one of several things — is the importance of scoring first.
“I told the girls whoever scored first would win,” Dragon said following the Wildcats’ 12-0 win over Union Grove in the opening round of the GHSA Class 1A-5A tate playoffs. “We were able to do that, and when we did, it gave us a big lift.”
In a game that was 0-0 at the half, the Wildcats got what they needed when Madeline Ward picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards for a touchdown.
While quarterback Lucy Tuttle and running back Kayla Jackson later teamed up on a 5-yard scoring pass for a touchdown, Ward’s pick-six proved to be all the Wildcats needed.
Richmond Hill (5-3) advanced to play Kendrick High School (5-3) at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in Columbus. Kendrick advanced with a 30-0 win over Ola.
The Wolverines were ranked seventh in the state in the Maxwell Rankings. Richmond Hill was unranked in its class, although Maxwell has it ranked 19th in 6A-7A.
The Wildcats’ win was one of four opening-round wins for Division I Area 2 teams. Top-seeded Calvary Day School (ranked fifth in the state), No. 6 Portal and No. 11 Dodge County all posted victories.
The Cavaliers have already played and won their second-round game to reach the Elite Eight.
“It was a really good win for us,” Dragon said. “When we got that score, the girls just exploded on the sideline and they started playing with more confidence.”
It didn’t take long for Richmond Hill to tack on its second score.
After forcing a Union Grove punt on the ensuing series, the Wildcats used a long pass from Tuttle to Jackson to put the ball on the 5-yard line. Two plays later, they scored to seal the win.
Dragon, who has several years of experience coaching football, said he could not overemphasize the importance of being the first team to score.
“It’s a big momentum shift,” Dragon said. “With the way the clock runs (non-stop) and only 20 minutes to a half, when you score first it puts a lot of pressure on the trailing team.
“That clock really runs fast, especially if you’re the team that’s behind.”
The clock does stop in the final minute of each half and for a coach’s timeout. However, even with an injury — unless the referee calls for it to be stopped — it continues.
Dragon said since this is the first season for girls flag football as a varsity sport, being able to obtain scouting information on opponents is virtually impossible.
“Unless you might know a coach who coached against them, there’s no way to get any information,” Dragon said. “This is a game where you have to make adjustments on the fly.
“Against Union Grove we made some adjustments early. Early in the season, I was slow in making adjustments. When we lost to Calvary (16-0), I waited too late. Every game is a learning experience for the coaches and players.”