BY GENE NARDI
The Seminole Ridge High School flag football team has established itself as a dynasty, winning back-to-back state championships. The Hawks have won five state titles in the past seven years, branding them as a dominant force in flag football.
On May 13, the team brought its 15-0 record to the test against a tough Hialeah team and dominated 40-12 to propel them into the Class 2A title game for the second year in a row.
On May 14, the team handled Martin County High School by defeating the Tigers 25-7 to take home the Class 2A title. The Hawks also finish with an unblemished 17-0 record and a No. 1 state ranking, which they held throughout the season.
Some staggering season statistics for the Hawks include 550 points scored, just 61 points against and nine shutouts. First-year head coach Scott O’Hara preached through the season that the goal was to improve each week and get better every game.
“We truly had 15 leaders on this team,” O’Hara said. “That’s why they are so special to me.”
O’Hara will be the first to tell you that the secret to their success is teamwork and a positive environment at practice. The statistics on both sides of the ball are incredibly impressive.
Senior quarterback Madeline Harding led the offense, and was voted Sun-Sentinel and Palm Beach Post flag football player of the year, named first team All-Conference and nominated for the Palm Beach County Sports Hall of Fame. She totaled 68 touchdowns, with 58 passing and 3,048 yards through the air, as well as 10 rushing scores.
Senior receiver Yazmin Salguero was a two-way starter and selected as first team All-Conference. She recorded 24 touchdown receptions and totaled 1,110 yards. She reeled in 10 interceptions as a safety on the defense.
Senior rusher Christine Schergen provoked fear in opposing teams’ quarterbacks. Her quickness garnered her 51 sacks on the season.
Ashley Hollandsworth, a sophomore and two-way starter, was a dangerous weapon on the field. She collected 13 scores for 871 yards and grabbed nine interceptions as a cornerback.
Senior Savannah Martinez anchored the line at center and caught eight touchdowns and 12 extra points, and senior Kaci Sleeth, another two-way starter, had five scores and four interceptions on the defense. Both made first team All-Conference.
Senior Ellie Centeno, along with sophomore Ayanna Wiltshire, played consistent defense all year. Juniors Kristi Kemper and Amy Chung produced clutch receptions at receiver throughout the season. Junior quarterback Emily Higgins also saw plenty of time in the backfield connecting with the receiving duo.
Senior linebacker Tori Vitier, rusher Cheyenne Baird, center Caitlin Carnahan and sophomore Rhiannon Bevan played integral roles during the final two playoff games, which contributed to the team’s success.
“Each player had a unique role on the team. Without each player’s contributions, we would have fallen short of our goal,” O’Hara said. “I am equally proud of every player for putting the needs of the team first.”
There is no doubt the Hawks have carved their rightful place in Seminole Ridge flag football history, and even though the team graduated nine seniors, there are enough experienced returning players to fill the void. That experience will cultivate leadership, and with O’Hara’s direction, it will not be a surprise to see the Hawks make another run at the state title.
ABOVE: The 2016 state champion Seminole Ridge Hawks flag football team.