When the Seminole Ridge High School girls flag football team started practicing back in February, the team had a number of goals for the season — have an undefeated regular season, win the district title, win the district playoffs, win the regional title, advance to the Class 2A state finals in Jacksonville and, finally, capture the school’s sixth state flag football championship.
The Hawks achieved five of those six objectives. But the dream of winning another state flag football championship fell by the wayside on Friday, May 7 when the team was defeated by the Western High School Wildcats in a state semifinal game played on the campus of Mandarin High School in Jacksonville. The game was broadcast live on the internet on the NFHS Network.
In that game, Seminole Ridge took a 6-0 lead as the Hawks scored a touchdown on their first possession, but the team was unable to put more points on the scoreboard and lost 19-6 to Western, the number-one ranked flag football team in Florida.
With the loss, the Hawks finished the season with a 16-1 record. On, Saturday, May 8, the Western Wildcats advanced to the Class 2A state championship game, where they lost 20-19 to the Newsome High School Wolves from Lithia.
Despite the loss in the state semifinals, Seminole Ridge head flag football coach Scott O’Hara is very proud of his squad’s season-long performance.
“The loss is very tough to take because we didn’t play well in the most important game of the season,” O’Hara said. “We had chances, but every time we tried to capitalize, we made a mistake that cost us. I give Western all the credit for being prepared to play a great game. Our team talked before the game about the fact that the winner of these games is usually the team that makes fewer mistakes, and we just made too many.”
The appearance in the state finals was the ninth appearance for Seminole Ridge. And the trip to Jacksonville was the last time that O’Hara’s five seniors — linebacker/blocker McKinley Harding, wide receiver Chloe Griffin, rusher Hannah Workinger, blocker Haylee Taylor and quarterback Haylie Young — would represent the Hawks on the gridiron.
“I do feel very badly for our five amazing seniors because, although we attained most of our season-long goals, we didn’t reach the final and most important one,” O’Hara said. “However, when you have true leaders, great players and even better young ladies like seniors McKinley Harding [who suffered a torn ACL before the season], Haylie Young, Haylee Taylor, Chloe Griffin and Hannah Workinger, as a coach, you feel exceptionally proud and fortunate to have shared the gridiron with such legends of our program.”
While O’Hara is the head coach, he knows that the overall success of the flag football program at Seminole Ridge can be attributed to the efforts of many people.
“Even though we didn’t reach our ultimate goal, I am extremely proud of the Hawks for all we did achieve and the way the players competed every day with class and sportsmanship,” O’Hara said. “I am also especially grateful to have had such an outstanding assistant coach in Ron Taylor, an equally incredible team mom in Molly Harding, and I very much appreciated help from Chad Chieffalo, Ayanna Wiltshire and Madeline Harding. They really made this season one to remember.”
Despite the setback, the future for flag football at Seminole Ridge High School is promising.
“As far as key returning players, we do have several returning starters coming back for next season, so I am excited to see which players are going to step up and try to fill the shoes of some of the greatest players that Seminole Ridge flag football has ever seen,” O’Hara said.
O’Hara and three of his seniors — Haylie Young, Haylee Taylor and Chloe Griffin — were selected to participate in the Florida Athletic Coaches Association (FACA) All-Star Flag Football Games in Belleview on Saturday, May 15. O’Hara and his three seniors were members of the South team that competed in a series of round-robin games against other all-star teams representing the North, West and East sections of Florida. O’Hara coached the South squad.
Young, meanwhile, will be attending Keiser University in West Palm Beach this coming fall and playing for the university’s flag football team next spring. Keiser, which competes under the banner of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), sponsored its first season of varsity women’s flag football this spring.