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Jaguars Flag Football Preseason Invite: Area flags battle in a two-day challenge

US Women's teamer: "Flag football is exploding"

Randy Lefko
Sports Editor
Posted 2/22/24

JACKSONVILLE - With United States Women's National team member Deliah Autry encouraging the 40-plus teams of girls high school flag football teams that trekked to the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars …

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Jaguars Flag Football Preseason Invite: Area flags battle in a two-day challenge

US Women's teamer: "Flag football is exploding"


JACKSONVILLE - With United States Women's National team member Deliah Autry encouraging the 40-plus teams of girls high school flag football teams that trekked to the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars for the Jaguars Flag Football Preseason Invitational over the weekend, the action at TIAA Bank Field was every bit as loud and exciting as any of the Jaguars home field wins this past NFL season.

"Flag football is growing and growing all over the country and the excitement is building in international play," said Autry, a former Tampa Robinson High player in her day and now a defensive back/wide receiver for the champion USA team (in 2018 over Panama and in 2021 over Mexico); the International Federation of American Football (IFAF) Americas championship in 2023. "Flag football will be an Olympic sport in 2028 and colleges around the country are adding the sport to their program with great results."
Autry, assistant coach at Robinson High and multiple sport athlete in high school looked forward to the 2024 championship game scheduled for Aug. 25-30 in Finland.
"The international teams stretch all over the globe," said Autry, noting championships games as far back as 2002 in countries such as Austria, France, South Korea, Canada and Sweden."
Autry, while a keynote speaker for the Jaguars Foundation event, was also watching area athletes for possible recruitment phone calls.
"I was a county player of the year in 2013, my senior year, and first district, first region and going to state," said Autry. "We lost in the state. Robinson won the next year and a bunch more after that."
Autry recalled her best play as a national team member, as a defensive back, in the 2023 championship game against Austria in Birmingham, Alabama, not England.
"Unfortunately, not England, but still a great venue," said Autry. "We were done by five points with a minute left, and, from center, I ran a post pattern that got me to the sideline and I had to tight-rope the sideline and I scored and we won off that."
In the previous year, Autry recalled a big interception she had also against Austria.
"I dove, caught it, got up and screamed and a picture was taken that was pretty cool," said Autry.
Autry detailed what USA team members and coaches look for in future plays as she surveyed the multitude of great athletes around her in Jacksonville.
"I'm not the biggest athlete out there, but the team looks for speed and football IQ," said Autry, who looks 5'-5", and about 130 pounds. "International flag is five on five, with a seven-year rush with no quarterback runs and no pitches. It's a game of whoever has the ball last normally wins. Two unscoring drives are devastating. A lot of scoring."
Autry, a cheerleader, dancer and point guard basketball at Robinson, noted most of the national team are Florida and Texas athletes with the field growing each year.
"I was in an adult-sized circuit that expands into a regional USA tournament and, if you are good, your name gets around and then you get the phone call," said Autry. "My dad was a basketball player, but we went out a lot; two hours a day, and threw footballs while my brother practiced."
On the Jaguars stadium field and also the Jags indoor practice facility, Middleburg, Fleming Island, Oakleaf, Clay, Ridgeview and Keystone Heights battled teams from all of Florida in a two-game format; one on the indoor facility, one on the Jaguars football stadium field.
Fleming Island was the lead story for most of the local media having lost in the Class 3A championship game last year to Tampa Alonso after a 16-0 slate before the game with playoff wins over Sandalwood, Pace, Spruce Creek and Western High before the 33-6 finals loss.
Fleming Island is without all-everything quarterback and safety Mykayla Maddox (38TDS in air, 28TDS in ground) with coach Clinton Lyons looking to junior Devyn Dudones in the Jags event at quarterback.
"Our ace in the hole is London Jenkins and she is one of the top five players in the country right now in some ranks," said Lyons, who got Fleming Island a fourth in the USA ranking last season behind Alonso and Robinson of Tampa, and Western High of Davie, FL. "Gabi Musa is back on defense and fullback and Megan Cobb is a solid outside defender. Daisy Fletcher was a big player of defense last year as a freshman and should be disruptive this year now that she knows the game a bit better."
Fleming Island opened with a tough 6-6 tie to Tallahassee Chiles with Jenkins blasting a 55-yard scoring pass play for the lone Eagles score. Jenkins also had an interception with Fletcher tagging the Chiles quarterback with key sacks.
Middleburg, with new coach James Black, who comes from many county titles at Lake Asbury Junior High, had Lincoln by a point until a late 50-yard touchdown scoring pass ended the game at 13-6.
Clay, with basketball point guard Teague Moses and center/wide receiver Shelby McClain moving the ball downfield with quick flicks, beat University 13-0 in their opener but lost a 19-0 game to Fletcher.
Ridgeview, with basketball center Nia Blocton in an ankle boot and with the Ridgeview girl's basketball team headed to Pensacola Washington for region basketball, also got rocked by Fletcher 19-0, then came back to tie University 0-0.

Middleburg 25-0 over Crescent City
Lincoln (1A region quarters) 13-6 over Middleburg
Fletcher 21-6 over Clay
University 0-0 with Ridgeview (1A region quarters)
Fleming Island (2A runnerup) 19-0 over FAMU DRS (1A region semis)
Fleming Island 6-6 vs. Chiles (2A region quarters)
Clay 13-0 over University
Fletcher 19-0 over Ridgeview
Oakleaf 13-0 over Andrew Jackson
Crestview 12-0 over Keystone Heights
Spruce Creek (2A region finalist) 20-0 over Keystone Heights
Oakleaf 6-0 over Bartram Trail

Season openers

Mon., Feb. 19
Interlachen at Keystone Heights 6 p.m.

Tues., Feb. 20
Fleming Island at Middleburg 6 p.m.

Thurs., Feb. 22
Oakleaf at Baldwin 6 p.m.

Tues., Feb. 27
West Nassau at Orange Park 6 p.m.

Thurs., Feb. 29
Clay at Sandalwood 7 p.m.

District 2-2A
Atlantic Coast
First Coast
Fleming Island
Orange Park

District 4-1A
Florida School for the Deaf and Blind
Santa Fe
St. Augustine