GCHS flag football team set for first season

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Photo:  the 2023 Gadsden City High School flag football team gathers for a photo prior to the program’s first season. Pictured, first row, from left: Zenay Haley, Raegan Brooks, Soleil Nuno, Miriam Rasool, Kyla Price, Aniyah Williams, Diamond Shuford. Second row, from left: Maranda Henderson, Jalynn Odom, Julianne Warren, Marlie McWhorter, Evie Millican, Mariah Ragland, Karleigh Sheffield, Aaliyah Richard. Third row, from left: coach Daniel Cameron, coach Michael Nelson, Kelis Wilson, Maddison White, Anna Klaire Ashley, Kiera Hampton, Margaret Stacey, Lily Powers, Marea Rasool, Sally Whitt, coach Peter Rowe. (Courtesy of GCHS) 

By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor

The area’s newest high school girls sports program is ready and raring to go.
Gadsden City High will field the school’s first-ever girls 7-on-7 flag football team this fall, competing in the Alabama High School Athletic Association.
GCHS decided last fall to put together a team, with coaches Peter Rowe, Daniel Cameron and Michael Nelson tasked with soliciting interest and holding tryouts this past spring. Approximately 80 girls came out and 22 made the team.
“It’s a great mixture of athletes from four or five others sports at the school,” said Rowe. “We put a lot of thought into picking the team. About half of the team is seniors, but we intentionally wanted to keep a couple of younger girls to build a little bit for the future. We were looking for girls that were standout athletes who also wanted to work hard and succeed. It’s a great group that’s a lot of fun to work with.”
With a relatively small roster, Rowe was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that he had enough depth to keep starting on both offense and defense at a minimum.
“I initially thought that we’d have a small group of four or five girls starting both ways, but the way it’s worked out, that’s not going to be the case. If we played tomorrow, we’d have about 18 or 20 girls who would play in some role or another. Girls would rotate in on both sides of the ball, but not start, and most of the team would get into the game in some form or fashion.”
National Federation of High Schools flag football rules includes a 48-minute game with four 12-minute quarters. The first 22 minutes of each half will be played with a running clock. Clock stoppage is used during the last two minutes of each half. Teams have three time-outs per half.
The playing field will be shortened to 80 yards with two 10-yard end zones. The field is 40 yards across with inbound marks 15 yards from the sideline. There are no kickoffs, with each offensive series staring at the 14-yard line with four downs. Teams may not defer on the opening coin toss.
GCHS flag fotball team – page 2B
While a touchdown counts for the traditional six points, a point after touchdown may count for one, two or three points if attempted from the 3, 10 and 20-yard line, respectively.
Field goals and quick kicks are not allowed. A safety is worth two points with the ball placed on the 30-yard line.
Punts are allowed but must be announced. Blocking is allowed on punt returns. Muffed punts may be caught by the kicking team. A kick is returnable whether caught or grounded.
No offensive or defensive lines are allowed. A snapper will snap directly to the quarterback, with one defensive player required to line up on the line of scrimmage prior to each play. Screen blocking is allowed on offense with a one-step allowance. Defenders may not use hands or body to push a blocker.
The ball is spotted where the ball was when the flag was removed from a belt around the offensive player’s waist. No early flag-pulls are allowed.
There are no fumbles; the ball is dead once it touches the ground. A one-handed touch is allowed between the shoulder and knees; tripping the runner is a foul.
Offensive players may jump, spin and dip without contact. Defenders may dive to remove but offensive players may not dive or hurdle to advance.
Ball carriers may not stiff-arm defenders or use the ball hands or arms to prevent a flag-pull. Defenders are not allowed to strip the ball but will not be called for stripping if the quarterback or ball carrier uses the ball to cover the flag while the defender is attempting a legitimate flag-pull.
The 2023 Gadsden City roster includes seniors Anna Klaire Ashley, Marlee McWhorter, Evie Millican, Lily Powers, Kelis Russell, Margaret Stacey, Sally Whitt, Ani-yah Williams and Kelis Wilson; juniors Zenay Haley, Kiera Hampton, Maranda Henderson, Soleil Nuno, Jalynn Odom, Kyla Price, Mariah Ragland, Aaliyah Richards and Karleigh Sheffield; sophomores Miriam Rasool and Julianne Warren; freshmen Raegan Brooks and Madison White and eighth grader Marea Rasool.
“I think it’s great for the school system to have this sport only for the fact that it provides another avenue for women’s athletics,” said Rowe. “I really do think we’ll be competitive this season. If they’re not, it will be because of coaching. I’m cautious in terms of expectations, but I’m privately optimistic about our chances to do well.”
The Lady Titans open the season at home against Leeds on Thursday, August 31. Other home games are on Sept. 12 against Clay-Chalkville, on Oct. 5 against Spain Park, Oct. 12 against Vestavia Hills, Oct. 17 against John Carroll Catholic and J.B. Pennington and Oct. 24 against Oxford and Albertville.
A qualifying tournament for the playoffs will be held prior to Nov. 4. The state quarterfinals will be held between Nov. 6 and 13 and the semifinals between Nov. 14 and 21. The state championship game will be held on Dec. 6 during the Super 7 AHSAA state championships in Tuscaloosa.
This article was supplemented by ahsaa.com.

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