For two years, Jaemia Kean didn’t think she was good enough to make the Lauderdale Lakes Middle School girls flag football team.
“I just ran track,” said Kean, an eighth-grader who played a pivotal role in the Vikings winning their second straight Broward County championship and third in four years. “I wasn’t sure I would make the team and doubted myself. When I made the team, I was crying happy. I am extremely excited now that our school won again.”
Lauderdale Lakes (12-0) topped Silver Lakes (North Lauderdale), 18-0, in the title showdown at McArthur High School. It was the Vikings’ 26th consecutive victory.
The middle school flag football tournament, which featured 16 girls teams from Coral Springs to Hollywood, involved both division champions and division runners-up in the action leading up to the decisive finale.
Winning their respective divisions were Coral Springs, Lauderdale Lakes, Pioneer (Cooper City), New River (Fort Lauderdale), Silver Lakes (North Lauderdale), Parkway (Fort Lauderdale), Indian Ridge (Davie) and Seminole (Plantation).
Runner-up recognition went to Dillard (Fort Lauderdale), Lauderhill, Driftwood (Hollywood), Tequesta Trace (Weston), William Dandy (Fort Lauderdale), Forest Glen (Coral Springs), Nova (Davie) and Silver Trail (Pembroke Pines).
In the semifinal county showdowns, Lauderdale Lakes defeated Pioneer while Silver Lakes beat Seminole.
Affectionately called the “Dirt Monster” by her teammates because of her willingness to dive and get dirty in order to pull an opponent’s flag, the 14-year-old Kean was confident Lauderdale Lakes would win the title.
“We have a lot of heart,” Kean said. “We just put the effort into winning and that’s it.”
The Vikings’ last loss came in the semifinals to Lauderhill in 2016. Lauderdale Lakes has won 42 of 44 games since the county reinstated flag football as a middle school sport four seasons ago.
The Vikings used a nifty play to take a 6-0 lead against Silver Lakes in this year’s championship contest when Chyaniece Pound threw a seven-yard pass to Alglay Nelson near the goal line. Nelson then lateralled the ball to Tanicha Saintigene for the touchdown.
Nelson, the game’s Most Valuable Player, later scored herself on a 53-yard run and then hauled in a 46-yard scoring pass from Pound on the final play of the game to claim the crown. Nelson also had two interceptions in the contest.
“We had family support from everybody,” said Nelson, 14. “Today was very big because I scored two touchdowns.”
Pound, also 14 and a resident of Plantation, took pride in the title because she was one of the team’s captains and it marked back-to-back championships in that sport.
“This is very big and exciting for me, knowing that everybody came together and worked hard for this and we got it,” Pound said. “This is my last year at the school and we won the championship … we all have big hearts and knew what we are capable of.”
Lauderdale Lakes coach Bennett Wyche, who is also the school’s athletic director, picked up his sixth county championship. In addition to the three girls flag football titles, he has also won three boys basketball championships.
The Vikings had just four returning players — but tapped into the school’s track team for athletes.
“We have one of the best track teams in the county, so we were able to use the speed we have in the school,” Wyche said. “I am always going to remember the heart these girls displayed. Our defense gave up three touchdowns all year.”
Silver Lakes (10-1) got strong performances from Jamya Newby and sixth-grader Tamara Elliott. The championship game appearance was the first for the school. The team lost in the semifinals two years ago.
“This season was very good,” said the 13-year-old Newby, who was a member of the Dolphins’ other final-four team two years ago. “I learned that teamwork makes dream work and you win some and you lose some. I am not disappointed. I am very satisfied with my team.”
Third-year Silver Lakes coach Ryan Magnuson knew this year’s team could make a deep run in the playoffs. After reaching the semifinals two years ago, last year’s squad got off to a 4-0 start and wound up 4-4.
“This was a special group of girls,” he said. “We had high expectations coming in. I have a sixth-grade quarterback with a bright future and I had five eighth-graders that were big-time players.”
Silver Lakes advanced to the championship game in dramatic fashion as Newby scored on a hook-and-ladder play with 30 seconds left from 15-yards out against Seminole. Elliott threw to Katiyana St. Falin, who flipped to Newby for the score.
Magnuson said he also received strong play from eighth-grade twins De’aijeah and La’taijeah Cheaton, and sixth-grader Tatiana Christian.