By Walter J. O’Neill, Jr.
High school football season is usually in the fall, but the past three years more and more high schools have filled teams for spring ball. However, the athletes are females and they’re playing flag football. This is the inaugural season for the Lady Wave of Long Branch High School.
It is not an official NJSIAA sanctioned sport, so most schools are using it as a club activity. Devron S. Clark, who was a standout athlete during his years at Long Branch, is the head coach of the girls’ flag football team.
Flag football has unique rules. Each team starts at the 40-yard line and have four down to try and reach the 25-yard line. If they make it to the 25, they get another four downs to try to make it to the 10. If they get to the 10, they get another four down to try and get a touchdown. However, from the 10-yard line in, teams can’t run the ball, they must throw.
Quarterbacks are not allowed to run, unless they are rushed. They can hand off to another player who is allowed to run. Touchdowns are six points. Teams have the option of attempting a single extra point from the five-yard line or two-points from the ten-yard line, and it must be a pass play. If a team is intercepted, it is automatically two points for the team that picked off the pass.
On Thursday, Long Branch hosted Keansburg who had defeated the Lady Wave by one point the day before. It was an exciting game as Long Branch pulled out a 27-20 win. “Sophomore quarterback Leomary Diaz-Merino tossed two touchdown passes, both to standout sophomore Kimi Sayson,” said Clark. This was the first home game and first flag football game played at Long Branch High School. The girls had a huge student support section in the stands cheering them on.
Sayson is a truly amazing athlete as she had just finished a varsity softball game against Neptune, ran into the school, changed uniforms and rushed out onto the football field for the start of the flag game. “Sayson and Riana Beharry both rushed for a touchdown and while Diaz-Merino connected with Alayah Vincent and Sayson for a pair of successful extra points,” Clark said.
Keansburg was leading for most of the game. “With two minutes remaining in the game, we pulled off a behind the back, hat trick hand off to Kimi Sayson, who ran untouched for 40 yards giving us the lead,” Clark said. Misa King, one of the players turned to Clark and said; “Let’s go for two points Coach Dev.”
Clark called a timeout and huddled with his squad. “I need you girls to trust me, like I trust you. Let’s go for one point and trust our defense will stop them,” said Clark. With 1:45 to play, the Titans had the ball but could not move it into the end zone. Clark gave credit to Ziyanah Davis and Stewart Twins for their amazing flag pulls. He also said that Vincent broke up a few Keansburg pass plays. “The big fourth and goal stop came when Natalie Seaman pulled the flag to prevent the Titans from scoring.”
“They beat us yesterday by one point, but we were ready to win this game at home,” said Diaz-Merino.
“It’s pretty awesome to play our first ever home flag game and win it with all the fans that came to support us. It’s really cool to be a part of something like this,” said Beharry.
“We knew it was going to be difficult. Keansburg has some talented girls and they beat us the day before, 19-18,” said Clark. Long Branch girls are athletic, have speed, and very quick feet. “Over the last few weeks the girls worked hard and kept getting better and better, and it’s hard because they’re all playing other varsity letter sports or doing AAU traveling. But we just kept working.”
Sayson finished the game with three touchdowns and over 150 total yards. She now leads the Lady Wave flag football team with eight touchdowns in three games.