Written by Josh Aubrey
Statesboro High, Southeast Bulloch and Bulloch Academy all saw their high school football seasons come to a close this past Friday night, but there is one Bulloch County team that is still playing football. The Portal Panthers football team had their season cut short due to COVID issues, but there is still a football team playing at the Portal Athletic Complex, the Portal girl’s flag football team.
The GHSA sanctioned girl’s flag football as an official sport for this season. The only Bulloch County team to field a team this year is the Portal Panthers. Led by head coach Jay Reddick, the Panthers are 4-1-1 and have already earned a second seed in next week’s state tournament.
“We had a few meetings to try and gauge the interest around the school,” said Reddick. “We held tryouts, and we feel we have some pretty good athletes on the team. The girls have picked it up pretty quick and have been doing well.”
As far as the rules there are a lot of things similar to football, and a few things unique to flag football. The field is broken into four different zones, with each one being 20-yards long. You get four downs to make it from one zone to the other. Touchdowns are worth six points, and you can elect to go for a one-point extra point from the 3-yard line, a two-point try from the 10-yard line, or a three-point try from the 20-yard line.
There are also no fumbles in flag football. If the ball comes out and hits the ground it is down at that spot. Kicking is limited to punting only. The ball is live and can be caught in the air, or off the ground.
Reddick comes in with plenty of flag football playing experience from his days in college, and after college as well.
“When I heard the GHSA was starting flag football I knew I wanted to coach,” said Reddick. “I played for about 15 or 16 years, so I feel like I have a lot of experience to bring them.”
Comprised of many of the girls on the Panther softball and basketball team, the Panthers have been putting up some points, led by quarterbacks Emma Yates, and Riley Lamb, and receivers such as Kelsi Williams, Blair Brannen, Brianna Milton and Jozie and Marlie Motes, as well as defensive standouts Aydin Street and Glendia Lowe.
“These girls understand sports, so they picked things up pretty quick,” said Reddick. “The hardest thing for me is trying to remember most of these girls don’t only know nothing about flag football, many of them didn’t know much about regular football because they don’t watch football games.”
“The biggest question I had was who was going to play what position,” said Reddick. “During tryouts we did a good job of evaluating who caught the ball well, who threw it well, and who pulled flags well. We have tweaked things a little, but for the most part things fell into place pretty quickly.”
While many plays look like they may have been drawn up in the dirt, Reddick is proud to say the Panthers have a play sheet and they run a lot of short game, and a triple quarterback system.
“We have three quarterbacks, and all of them are pretty talented,” said Reddick. “You have a main quarterback, and then a quarterback on each side. Your snap can go to any of the three of them. When it goes to the main quarterback, she can throw it, run it or throw to either of the other quarterbacks, who can then throw it themselves as long as it is a backwards pass first.”
The Panthers defeated Dodge County 19-0 Wednesday night at Effingham County, and in the process sewed up the second seed in the state tournament. Emma Yates threw two touchdown passes to Brianna Milton. Riley Lamb added a rushing score, and Marlie Motes scored the extra point run. Next up for the Panthers they will get the state playoffs underway December 9th in Forsyth against a yet to be determined opponent.