SARANAC LAKE — Right after one hundred seasons of organized varsity football, Saranac Lake is introducing a girls varsity football group — or, rather, a unique take on the sport.
This upcoming spring sports season, Saranac Lake, along with ten other schools in Section VII, will compete in girls flag football. Games will be played largely on the weekends, with property games held at Wilson Raymond Field.
The group will be guided by Sean Ryan, who spent the previous couple of fall sports seasons coaching the boys JV football group.
Ryan, who will also join the boys varsity football group in the fall of 2023 as an assistant, stated when he initially heard about the possibility of girls flag football becoming a sport he was intrigued about the chance of assisting the girls to attempt a thing new.
“I adore football and I want it to attain all levels, and all folks,” Ryan stated. “With the good results of the Pumpkin Bowl — even when I was back in higher college — it was a thing that I know the girls normally wanted. As soon as the chance arose I had to jump on it.”
The Pumpkin Bowl is an annual girls flag football tournament place on by the Saranac Lake Higher College for the duration of homecoming week.
About 25 girls will compete for the inaugural Red Storm flag football group, according to Ryan. Most of the girls playing will also compete in a second sport or a main sport for the duration of the spring.
“They are devoted,” he stated. “They get to play softball, track and lacrosse and soon after they are accomplished with that they come to us and we begin undertaking football.”
Ryan stated that he has a lot of awesome athletes on the group, and he’s not incorrect — a couple of of them have earned league honors in cross nation and softball.
“The beauty in that is that they have these abilities that they can bring from their other sport,” Ryan stated. “We can place our track runners or lengthy-distance runners on the outdoors and have them throw the ball deep. We also have softball players who are utilized to operating and sprinting as challenging as they can. I’m quite excited simply because we have an chance and our group enables us to do a small bit of almost everything.”
Even though Saranac Lake and numerous of the other schools in the section kicked off their initially practices about two weeks ago, the sport is currently a year old for some applications in New York state.
Final year, the state made a “pilot program” with some of the larger sections in New York, such as Lengthy Island and Buffalo. According to the Section VII girls flag football coordinator Matt Mills, the system anticipated there to be about 24 teams competing in the 2021-22 season, but the final quantity ended up at 51 teams.
Mills stated that girls flag football is the quickest emerging sport that the state has ever noticed. He added that NYSPHSAA has currently authorized a state championship for subsequent year.
“We tripled in numbers from the pilot system to this year,” Mills stated. “Now we currently have up to 150 to 160 schools. A lot of these schools that piloted it are pushing forward with a JV and a modified system as properly.”
A huge portion of the sport’s development in New York state has been by way of the enable of National Football League teams, the New York Giants, the Buffalo Bills, the New York Jets, the NYSPHSAA and Nike. The organizations have helped with funding and generating possibilities for girls to play flag football.
According to Giants.com, the official internet site of the NFL’s New York Giants, the Giants will assistance Section VII’s inaugural season of play with a $30,000 contribution this spring to assistance eight schools that intend to begin a girls flag football system.
The quantity of Section VII teams has grown given that February when the Giants announced its contribution. Along with Saranac Lake, the teams involve AuSable Valley, Beekmantown, Keene, Moriah, Northeastern Clinton, Plattsburgh, Peru, Saranac Central, Schroon Lake and Ticonderoga.
Even though most of these schools most likely will not come as a shock to sports fans, simply because most of them have a boys varsity football group, two smaller sized schools possibly stand out — Schroon Lake and Keene.
The combined higher college enrollment quantity (87) for each of these schools is practically one hundred much less than the third smallest college district — Moriah — at 182. But for flag football, these numbers do not truly matter.
“You only will need seven girls on the field, so we’re going to be playing against Keene and Schroon Lake,” Ryan stated. “It opens it up so that additional schools get involved.”
Mills, who is also the athletic director at Keene Central College, stated one particular of his greatest targets at Keene is to build possibilities for girls to be a portion of a Keene group and to not have to merge sports.
“We’re attempting to rebuild our spring sports system and have youngsters on campus,” Mills stated.
For the duration of the spring, the only sport Keene provides is golf. Students can, having said that, compete for the Lake Placid baseball, softball and track and field teams. But Mills saw the prospective in girls flag football.
“The writing right here on the wall is ‘We haven’t had softball in a truly lengthy time, so what can we present to these youngsters and a thing that is sustainable?’” Mill stated. “With only needing seven, eight or nine girls to truly make it occur, (this) is truly a great chance for us.”
Final December, Mills sat down with Section VII Executive Director Matt Walentuk to gauge what girls flag football would appear like in Section VII. Mills stated he wasn’t certain how numerous girls or Section VII teams would want to play, but nevertheless believed it was a great chance.
“We just place it out to the section and we’re like ‘Let’s attempt and make this occur,’” Mills stated.
Mills stated the Keene flag football group at the moment has 12 girls on the roster, and a great deal like Saranac Lake and numerous other schools, most of them are undertaking dual sports.
With the sport becoming so new, Mills stated he thinks that most schools will enable their girls to do dual sports.
“I assume a lot of the schools are just attempting to really feel it out and see exactly where this is going more than the subsequent couple of years,” he stated.
Mills stated that he, along with the other schools in the section, have been quite deliberate about how they program to schedule girls flag football games.
“We took a appear at the track schedule and the softball schedule and we worked about these as most effective as we can,” Mills stated. “We knew that after spring hits we had been going to have cancellations and stuff like that. But we wanted to make certain we had one particular game a week, just like the boys football system — Friday evening, Saturday and Thursday nights.”
Coaching with new guidelines
Even though girls are permitted to play tackle football on higher college teams in the state, not numerous do. Most play roles such as kicker.
In flag football, there is no tackling and the play ends when an opposing player pulls off the flag of the particular person with the ball. The game is also played 7-on-7 with a shortened field with 48 minutes of game time divided into two halves of 24 minutes every single.
“The fundamentals are nevertheless there as far as you nevertheless have a quarterback and you nevertheless have somebody snapping the ball,” Ryan stated. “It’s unique and I assume it is going to be a small bit quicker pace as properly. As far as, just attempting to move the ball and throw the ball.
“We’re undertaking additional — I wouldn’t say reactionary — but we have a program in spot,” he added. “With tackle football, we have film, we have factors like that. With this becoming brand new, we do not have that. So we will need to truly rely on ourselves and be the most effective versions of ourselves.”
As a coach of boys tackle football, Ryan stated the method to coaching flag football is fully unique.
“There is normally a sense of understanding how to tackle and the security of it all. You devote a significant portion of your time understanding to tackle appropriately and the rule book,” Ryan stated. “This year with flag, it is unique simply because you do not have to devote the time on that. We get to go straight into a playbook. It is of course unique simply because we are teaching these abilities from the ground up.
“The boys that are playing football have had years and years of drill operate,” he added. “Throwing, catching and understanding positions. It is an potential to begin from the ground up.”
With the sport becoming in its inaugural season, Ryan stated he truly just desires his group to have exciting.
“That’s the target this year, to discover the game — and hopefully to win a couple of games,” he stated. “But this is a expanding sport. Subsequent year, they are going to have state championship involvement.”
So far, it appears like it is been quite exciting. Ryan stated his group comes into practice with a smile on their face.
“They’re prepared to listen and to operate. They’re choosing up so immediately,” Ryan stated. “I hope they are possessing exciting. It appears like they are.”
At this point, it is secure to say that Saranac Lake is recognized for its adore of football, and according to Ryan, the neighborhood has been super supportive of a girls flag football group.
“I assume the neighborhood has our back with this. They are all excited,” Ryan stated. “I’ve talked to numerous girls, who only want they had this sport when they had been in higher college.”
Ryan stated he and Forrest Morgan, Saranac Lake’s athletic director, opened up a group shop to sell merchandise.
“We’re receiving so numerous neighborhood members assisting us out and obtaining gear,” Ryan stated. “They’re extremely supportive. That is what I maintain attempting to inform our girls. We’re quite fortunate to reside in the neighborhood that we do. We have a quite huge football neighborhood — irrespective of whether its flag or not.”
For the duration of the season, Ryan stated he plans on employing one particular or possibly two of his practice slots to give back to the neighborhood.
“Maybe we’ll wash windows downtown or clean up some parks,” he stated. “I’m just attempting to let them know that they have so a great deal assistance.”
The Red Storm will play its initially game on the road against AuSable Valley on Saturday, April 22 at two p.m. Meanwhile, Keene will take on Schroon Lake in its initially game on Thursday, Apr 20 at their property field.
“We’re playing them ideal right here, ideal behind the college at our soccer field,” Mills stated. “We’re going to line it out especially for flag football. Considering that it is a new field and we do our personal lining right here. It is a gorgeous backdrop with the mountains surrounding us. I really feel like it is one particular of the most effective in the section for any sport.”
Mills stated that he is arranging on broadcasting some of the games in the spring.
The two schools will clash in Saranac Lake’s property opener on Friday, Might five at four:30 p.m.
“I hope our whole neighborhood shows up,” Ryan stated. “We’re nevertheless going to be playing on Wilson Raymond Field. We’re going to have pre-game music and stuff. I hope absolutely everyone shows up simply because it is a particular year and it is a particular new sport. I hope folks just take the time to come verify it out.”
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