Girls Flag Football Team is one of Decatur High’s fastest-growing sportsThe flag football team in action in 2022. Photo by Keson Graham (@kesonthedhspics on Instagram)
By David McFarland, contributor
Stone Mountain, GA — One of Decatur High School’s newest and fastest-growing sports is its Girls Flag Football team.
The program is only weeks away from starting its fourth season and all signs point towards this being its most successful and busiest campaign yet with a record 14 games on the calendar.
Head Coach Allison Paul described how the team has improved and grown since its inception.
“We started out with just 11 girls in our first season,” Paul said. “in our second season we had 22 girls on our team, and last year in our third season we had 40 girls in our program and started a JV team.”
This season, the school will again field a JV and varsity team, with around 40 athletes participating.
Senior Juno Rodgers described how the team got its start.
“In an effort to make GHSA girls’ flag football accessible, the Atlanta Falcons gave teams including Decatur a starting grant to get their programs off the ground,” Rogers said. “As flag football spreads across the state, our own team has grown as well and we have over 40 tryouts this year.”
Players like junior Marli Czech have been ambassadors for the team, inspiring young athletes to sign up.
“Getting to learn a new sport and meeting new people has been my favorite thing about flag,” Czech said. “I’m most excited about playing in games this season, it is always so much fun.”
Rogers highlighted the culture and vibe around the team.
“My favorite moment as a flag football player has been seeing the team come together in a way that is different from other sports at our school,” Rogers said. “The flag football culture here is inclusive. The team has an energetic spirit, and, while we are competitive, we stick together. It is the most supportive environment I’ve witnessed out of all of DHS’s other varsity sports.”
However, Decatur’s progress hasn’t been linear. Rogers described some of the obstacles that Decatur has had to prevail through on the field.
“Last year, our starting quarterback tore her ACL during a game,” Rogers said. “While she still brings great energy to the team and has taken on a role as manager, she will be out for this whole season. This has been a big challenge for us, but this year, we expect to have multiple solid players to take on this position.”
Czech agreed, saying, the injury led to. “struggles connecting together as a team during the games.”
“We have overcome this by everyone being willing to help and play wherever needed and put the most effort possible,” Czech added.
Off-field problems have also affected the Bulldogs.
“One of our biggest struggles has been having a lot of turnaround with coaches,” said Coach Paul. “I started the program with Coach Jenitra Shields during the pandemic. Coach Shields was with us for two seasons but has since moved up to the college level and is the head coach at Life University. We have had a couple of other awesome coaches come and go as well.”
Nonetheless, Decatur has adapted admirably, and its coaching staff is readier than ever to take on a new season, according to Coach Paul.
This dedication has led to many rewarding moments for but one stood out.
“My favorite moment as a flag football coach was actually not while coaching but rather while spectating,” Paul said. “It was seeing one of my former players, Jukaine Washington win a National Championship in her Freshman year at the Mercedes Benz this past spring. She made the game-winning stop in the National Championship as a Freshman.”
Despite so much progress already made, Decatur’s Flag Football program is only getting started under the leadership of Coach Paul.
“I am looking forward to continuing to grow the game of flag football,” Coach Paul said. “Also, I am looking forward to seeing our kids compete every day as they work to reach their goals in the weight room and on the field. A long-term program goal is to add a middle school program, and we are hoping to do that for the 2024-2025 school year.”
Decatur’s current focus is on the upcoming season and bringing hardware home.
Czech said, “Our team’s goals are making it as far as possible and ultimately taking home the state championship.”
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