Using volleyball’s success as an example, coach Kristen Barnhill believes there’s no reason why Bryan County High School’s startup flag football program cannot be a success.
It took a while for the Redskins to get involved in one of the state’s fastest growing sports but Barnhill and assistant coach Mario Mincey like what they’ve seen to date. The school is playing a junior varsity schedule this season before moving up to varsity status next year.
It’s the same track volleyball followed in that three years ago, the Redskins played at the junior varsity level, moved to varsity last year and this year won a region championship and advanced to the “Sweet 16” in the GHSA Class A state playoffs.
Girls playing flag football—like volleyball—are having to learn the sport from scratch as there are no underlying teams in either the recreation department or the school system.
“The girls had been asking about it for two years,” Barnhill said of adding the new sport. “It came down to finding someone to coach it and I said I would do it. We’re just trying to get our feet under us, kind of like volleyball did."
“It’s been kind of hard to juggle fall sports practice and games with flag football since it’s in a weird place in the season,” Barnhill said. “With softball and volleyball being over we’ve been able to get everybody at practice and we are able to start putting things together.”
Flag football practice starts in mid-September with games starting in early October. The state championship games are played Dec. 11 at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. The sport, obviously, overlaps with softball, volleyball and cross country which for a Class A school like Bryan County creates numbers problems.
Barnhill’s original roster had 22 players—some softball and volleyball players she anticipated playing decided not to play—but she had 14 in uniform at a game with Richmond Hill last week.
The Redskins lost their opener with Jenkins and then beat New Hampstead before dropping a two touchdown decision to the Wildcats.
“We’ve got some really good athletes,” said Barnhill who is also head coach of the girls soccer team and an assistant in volleyball. “A lot of them don’t know a lot about football so it’s kind of baby-stepping. We’re just trying to get them situated."
“One of the big things is terminology,” Barnhill said. “When we said ‘line of scrimmage’ for example, they didn’t know what we meant. Fortunately, Mario and I both know a lot about football."
“We’ve been teaching every day and they’re getting better. They’re starting to get what they should be doing on offense to make plays work a little better. They work hard at practice every day and are executing better.”
Several basketball players have taken to the sport and give Barnhill and Mincey hope for the future.
Junior shooting guard Katelyn King shares quarterback with Haley Thomas and they have a bevy of speedy receivers in Ashanti Brown, Kayley Wedlow, Briana Crawford and Soniya Whitaker who showed against Richmond Hill they are dangerous in the open field.
“We’re optimistic about the future,” Barnhill said. “The kids work hard and want success. We’re going to work hard to get more kids out there playing.”
The Redskins played Groves and Claxton this past Monday with remaining games at South Effingham on Thursday, at St. Vincent’s on Nov. 14 and will soon wrap up the season with games at Effingham County against the Rebels and Woodville-Tompkins on Nov. 16.