Led by its experienced quarterback, Western hoping for a breakthrough flag football season

Andre C. Fernandez
·4 min read

Only two South Florida flag football teams — Fort Lauderdale (2003) and Miramar (2006) — have won state championships.

Miami-Dade and Broward’s best will try to wrestle the grip Tampa powerhouses Robinson (four-time defending champion in Class 1A) and Alonso (two-time defending champion in Class 2A) have had on the top spot in recent years.

One such program hoping for a breakthrough is Western, a regional finalist in 2018 and 2019.

The big reason is the return of junior quarterback Sydney Ford, who was a first-team All-State wide receiver as a freshman when she caught passes from her older sister, Samantha, a former two-time All-State quarterback.

Ford, a basketball and soccer player at the Davie school, will also start at linebacker for the Wildcats (4-2 in 2020).

“She can play any position,” said Western coach James O’Brien, who is in his 11th season and guided the Wildcats to a 97-30 record during his tenure. “We should be explosive on offense and fast on defense. She’s very smart, accurate, and is dangerous with her feet as well.”

Western returns seven starters and added junior wide receiver transfer Veronica McBride (14 receptions, 4 touchdowns).

Starting junior rusher Naiya Rampat leads Western on defense. Senior receivers Sydney Hoover and Jojo Fine add experience on offense. And another newcomer, Ayisha Scott, will be playing corner and receiver.

Western’s primary competition in Broward in 2A figures to come from Cooper City, Everglades, Piper and Blanche Ely.

THIS AND THAT

The flag football postseason will begin with district championship tournaments on the week of April 19. The regional semifinals will take place April 28 with the finals following on May 3. The state tournament will be held on May 7-8 at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville.

Miami Edison made it to the Class 1A state championship game in 2018 and the regional finals in 2019 and have compiled a 60-7 record over the past six seasons. The Red Raiders believe they might have the pieces to make a run again in 2021. Sophomore Alexandria Harris (5 interceptions, 4 touchdowns) returns along with senior athlete Ronisha Gibbs (4 TDs, 12 catches), junior Lonesha Howell and senior Jackie Brown.

Miami Jackson, a district champion in 2018, returns four-year starting receiver/safety Dy’Shanti Miller (7 touchdowns, 4 interceptions) as well as sophomore receiver Zakyra Whyms (9 touchdowns, 5 interceptions) and junior rusher Genesis Rivera-Gallego (21 sacks).

Southridge should be one of Miami-Dade’s top teams again thanks to the return of senior quarterback Kirsten Rolle, a four-year starter. Rolle, who is also a shot put thrower in track, brings speed and agility to the Spartans and will have sophomore running back Kiericka Wilson and junior wide receiver Brakyia Cooper as her top targets. The Spartans, along with Miami High, Ferguson and Dr. Krop, are among the county’s best in Class 2A.

The Krop Lightning, who have won three consecutive district titles, move into a new district this season with all Broward County opponents. Krop has five players who play multiple sports. Senior receiver/safety Kirra Magana (15 touchdowns, 3 INTs in 2019) also bowls, plays softball, basketball and soccer. Junior quarterback/receiver/running back/linebacker Lindsey Weingard (basketball and bowling) had six interceptions and four sacks in 2019. Senior receiver/linebacker Kamryn Walker, also a basketball player, had 20 catches, three touchdowns and three interceptions. And basketball standout Brianna Knowles, a senior, had five touchdowns and six interceptions.

Pembroke Pines Charter graduated several starters, but should still be strong on the defensive end thanks to returning sophomore Francesca Pinales (6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions in 2019). Senior Emma Caulfield and sophomores Camille Excell and Hailey Cajigas step into key roles.

Senior receiver/defensive back Juliana Velasquez leads Somerset Academy, which started 4-0 last year before the pandemic cut the season short.

Monarch should be a strong, veteran squad led by the senior trio of wide receivers Allison Kirby and Robyn Duckett and quarterback Megan Duckett. Junior linebacker/running back Naiya Butler is one of the defensive leaders.

Varela hopes to compete for a district title this season with a mix of veterans (six seniors) and youth (10 freshmen). Senior Hailey Alfaro had three rushing touchdowns in two games last season before the shutdown. The Vipers also return senior quarterback Nicole Rubio. Freshman Sofia Mialin Cano, a goalie on Varela’s soccer team, is expected to play a big role as a receiver/safety.

After going 0-3 last year, Braddock will try to regain the form it had during a district runner-up 2019 season. Junior linebacker/receiver Isabella Suarez, also a volleyball standout, leads the Bulldogs.