The Cooper City High School girls flag football team entered this season not knowing what to expect after losing its veteran quarterback and three other seniors to graduation.
The Cowboys reached the state semifinals in 2017, and while the goal is to once again advance deep into the playoffs there was an element of concern as to whether this year’s squad could reload and meet the challenge.
The answer has thus far been a definitive yes.
Nine games into the regular season as of this writing, the Cowboys are on fire with an undefeated record. They are not only winning but also winning convincingly. In fact, the Cooper City girls kicked off the gridiron campaign with five straight shutouts over Nova 26-0, Everglades 19-0, McArthur 21-0, South Broward 28-0 and Coral Springs 20-0 .
Then, after facing tougher tests in defeating Western, 13-6, and Hollywood Hills, 12-6, the Cowboys returned to dominance against Miramar, 46-0, and Flanagan, 38-0.
In the Cowboys’ game versus Miramar, sophomore Kimberly Slinkosky led the way with four touchdowns. Slinkosky’s effort propelled her total touchdown mark to 17 (14 receiving and three rushing) this season. She has carried the ball 27 times for 320 yards, and has a team-leading 411 yards receiving. Slinkosky was named All-State last year as a freshman.
Sophomore quarterback Hailey Brown is playing a huge role in the Cowboys’ success as she has completed 150 of 315 passes for 1,703 yards and 24 touchdowns. She was out for a good portion of last season with a knee injury.
“Athletically, I think we are better than we were last year,” said head coach Al DiLiello, who has three seniors on the team. “Our quarterback (situation) was a big concern. We just had to develop a cohesive offense and Hailey has done a great job in picking up the system. Our defense has been solid all season. We started five freshmen in last year’s state semifinal, so we are really young.
“There are a lot of good teams in South Florida and I think we can get back to where we were last year,” he continued.
There are other weapons in the offensive arsenal. Junior Gayla Vignanski has 350 yards receiving and nine touchdowns, while sophomore Annie Clark has contributed 152 yards and three scores.
Defensively, senior Juliette Planco (45 flag pulls, one interception), junior Sam Worley (38 flag pulls, four interceptions), Vignanski (18 flag pulls, four interceptions, Clark (28 flag pulls) and junior Hannah Eubanks (15 flag pulls) have been key contributors.
DiLiello, who guided the team to a state semifinal appearance last season, is seeing success despite the loss of two-year veteran quarterback Caitlin Dunn and three other seniors, among them Sammie Stofsky and Katie Slinkosky, to graduation.
Dunn, a first-team Sun Sentinel All-County selection last season, amassed 2,953 yards passing, 44 yards passing and nine rushing touchdowns for the Cowboys, who went 14-2 last season.
“Losing Caitlin Dunn was a big loss because she spent two years in our system as a quarterback,” DiLiello said. “She could really sling it and was a huge part of our offense.”
DiLiello took over a girls flag football program that had a combined 1-22 record over the two seasons prior to his arrival. He credited his assistant coaches — who have a wealth of flag football experience, either playing or coaching — with aiding in the turnaround.