At Seminole Ridge High School, excellence is the expectation every year for its girls flag football program. There are many good reasons why those annual expectations are so high. Seminole Ridge’s most decorated and successful athletic program is its girls flag football team. The team has won five state titles (2010, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016) and been the state runner-up on three other occasions (2014, 2017 and 2018).
That’s why the Hawks flag football team is so optimistic every year, and deservedly so.
Last spring, the team had an undefeated record (4-0), and they were marching toward more post-season success before the pandemic put an abrupt halt to the 2020 season. While the COVID-19 pandemic remains, the flag football program has reassembled and is getting ready for a new season.
Seminole Ridge flag football head coach Scott O’Hara is confident that this year’s squad can pick up where last year’s team left off. “This year’s team is dedicating this season to last year’s seven seniors,” O’Hara said.
Those seven seniors were denied a chance to add a sixth flag football state title to the school’s trophy case.
The heart and soul of this year’s team is a group of five seniors, one of whom is injured and will be supporting the team from the sidelines during games and practices.
McKinley Harding is normally on the field as the strongside linebacker. But because of an ACL injury suffered in the offseason, she will be using her voice and enthusiastic spirit to push her teammates to be their best.
Fellow senior Chloe Griffin is a four-year member of the varsity flag football team who plays both offense and defense.
“Chloe is a receiver on offense and a cornerback on defense,” O’Hara said. “She is a huge part of our success. She is very talented individual. Chloe is a great player and a key part of our entire program.”
The Seminole Ridge defense is so strong because of contributions from players like senior Hannah Workinger.
“Hannah is our starting rusher on defense,” O’Hara said. “She’s a tough player and a hard worker. She can dominate a game as the rusher. She does a great job of sacking the opposition’s quarterback and creating quarterback hurries. Everything she does on the field doesn’t always appear on the stat line.”
Fellow senior Haylee Taylor is the last line of the defense. As the safety, she makes her presence known with her body and her voice.
“She’s a tough player, who is one of our team’s great leaders,” O’Hara said.
According to O’Hara, when Taylor speaks to her teammates, they listen.
Taylor has been trained by her father, Ron Taylor, who serves as O’Hara’s assistant coach. “Ron has taught his daughter well because Haylee displays great leadership on the field,” O’Hara said.
One of the big reasons for O’Hara’s confidence this year is that he has one of the top quarterbacks in the state on his roster. That is senior Haylie Young, who has signed a letter-of-intent with Keiser University in West Palm Beach, where she will attend college and continue her flag football career this coming fall.
As a freshman at Seminole Ridge, Young was a member of the team that finished second in the state in 2018, losing the state championship game to Alonso High School from Tampa. Young is looking to go a step further by concluding her high school career with a state title.
According to O’Hara, his senior signal caller has the talent and emotional maturity to lead the team to another state title.
“She’s a dual-threat quarterback who gives her teammates confidence in the huddle,” O’Hara said. “In games, she doesn’t get too high or too low. She maintains her composure and keeps an even keel. She has a real calming influence on her teammates, especially late in the game when the final outcome is on the line.”
The Hawks open their season on Tuesday, March 2 when they play at home against Lake Worth High School. Without a doubt, the team’s goal is to conclude the season by hoisting the school’s sixth state championship title in early May at the Florida High School Athletic Association’s Flag Football State Championships.
It won’t be an easy path to the state finals, but it never is.
“We play in a tough district and only the top four teams make it to the district playoffs,” O’Hara said. “And only the winner of the district playoffs advances into the state playoffs, which begin with the regionals.”
It may be a tough road ahead, but they’ve successfully navigated that tough road in the past.
When O’Hara creates his team’s schedule every year, he inserts every possible game, date and location. That includes this year’s state championship game, which will be held on Saturday, May 8 on the campus of Mandarin High School in Jacksonville. O’Hara put that date on his team’s schedule because he’s prepared to coach his team in that game. After all, that type of excellence is the annual expectation for girls flag football at Seminole Ridge High School.