Two South Florida flag football powers – Western in Class 2A and Edison in 1A – came close to advancing to the state finals, which were played Saturday in Jacksonville.
On Friday, also in Jacksonville, both teams allowed 20 points, and both squads fell one score short.
Western lost 20-14 to Fleming Island.
Edison lost 20-13 to Choctawhatchee.
Both South Florida squads are led by veteran coaches – Vincent Hall, who led Edison to the 1A state final in 2018; and James O’Brien, who directed Western to the 2A state championship last year.
Western went 16-3 this season, losing its only matchup with Edison, 20-6, on April 1.
On Friday, Western led Fleming Island 7-0 after the game’s first drive as Tamara Elliott threw a 30-yard touchdown pass down the sideline to Keylee Allen.
Fleming Island cut its deficit to 7-6 on a touchdown with just 15 seconds left in the half. In the second half, Fleming Island took a 20-7 on a pair of plays that were unfortunate for Western. First came a deflected pass that turned into a Fleming Island touchdown, and that was followed by a Western interception.
Western scored a touchdown with four minutes left in the game to cut its deficit to 20-14, but the Wildcats never got the ball back.
“We couldn’t sustain drives,” O’Brien said. “(Fleming Island) played ‘off’ coverage. We could dink and dunk the ball down the field as long as we didn’t make mistakes, but we were intercepted twice.”
The Wildcats, who have advanced to at least the state semifinals three consecutive seasons, were led this year by junior wide receiver Nandi Ramessar; junior safety/receiver Keylee Allen; junior quarterback Tamara Elliott; junior cornerback Kennedy Allen; and sophomore wide receiver/linebacker Kailyn Echeverria.
O’Brien considers Ramessar – who had 100 catches for 1,018 yards and 16 TDs this year – the best offensive player in Broward County. Elliott, who was only a part-time QB, passed for 1,600 yards, 26 TDs and just three picks. Kennedy Allen intercepted 12 passes, and Echeverria caught 65 passes.
But O’Brien had special praise for Keylee Allen.
“She’s the unquestioned leader of our team,” O’Brien said. “She plays offense (10 TDs) and defense (12 picks). Her teammates respect her.”
Like Western, Edison (18-2) trailed for most of its state semifinal.
However, with two minutes left, Edison’s Shanell Norris scored on a 14-yard pick six for her sixth interception of the year.
“She likes to bait quarterbacks,” Hall said of Norris. “She’s one of the best defensive backs I’ve ever coached.”
Edison, had a chance to tie the score, but Choctawhatchee converted a third-and-eight run, and the clock soon expired.
“We missed three flags on that play,” Hall lamented.
Aside from Norris, Edison was led this season by seniors Alexandra Harris; Felicia Wright, Keisha Voltaire; and Makayla Brown.
Harris, the team MVP, had 2,980 all-purpose yards and 37 TDs.
“She’s one of the best flag-football players ever to come out of Miami,” Hall said. “She led us to state three straight trips to state, playing quarterback, running back, linebacker and defensive back.”
Edison also had a star sophomore in Poetry Auguste, who led the team with 14 interceptions. On offense, she had 1,060 receiving yards and 12 TDs.
Voltaire had 12 interceptions, and Wright added 980 receiving yards, 10 TDs, six interceptions (two returned for touchdowns) and a punt-return score.