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Area teams get creative with playbook ahead of state’s second flag football season

LEeds flag football

Leeds players (from left to right: Finley Bell, Maya Hall, Lillie Harrigan and Trinity Gaddy) kick off the program's inaugural flag football season on Tuesday night at Homewood.

Leeds flag football coach Toren Pollard will not call a single slant route during the Greenwave’s inaugural season, which starts this week.

Pollard learned early this offseason that a lot of the “normal” football words he used growing up didn’t mean anything to most of his players. He might as well have been speaking another language during the first few practices.

“Instead of just saying the football term for it, I would be like we are talking about this,” Pollard said. “And they would be like, okay while don’t we just say this, and I’m like hey, that works. Like for a slant, it is just a curve. Hey, run a curve route because to them, that is a slant. Because instead of just trying to throw stuff at them, they are coming up with this stuff on their own now.”

Pollard said allowing the players to name certain routes helped them internalize plays much faster now than when he was trying to teach them all the football vocabulary. 

At this point, his players might know the modified playbook better than their head coach.

“It’s become more of a learning experience for me than anybody. … I’ve learned a lot,” Pollard said.

Moody second-year coach Rebecca Davis found her own ways last fall to navigate the sheer volume of football terminology that’s needed to install plays and schemes.

“We'll play a lot of zone defense, and that's a lot the same as playing zone in basketball,” Davis said. “So I'm able to kind of cross sports and use some of the same terms or explain it to them in a way they know.”

Still, Davis also found herself coaching plenty of girls that joined the team with little or no experience in other organized sports. 

Teaching those girls last year sometimes required longer explanations when it came to certain contexts, but Davis said it was also really exciting to introduce new kids to the world of athletics.

“Sports now, if you’re not in them by the time you're in the third or fourth grade, you're so far behind you may never catch up, and I hate that,” Davis said.

The Blue Devils roster 22 girls this season after having around 18 last season. Ten of those players return this year, and Davis hopes that experience will give her team a leg up over some of Moody’s opponents who haven’t played before.

Despite returning over half the team, the Blue Devils did not return their starting quarterback. Moody will use a three-person committee at that position for the first few games, with eighth-grader Kennedy Hockman being the official starter.

While Hockman finds her feet at the position, Davis will also mix in Tori Pyles and Emma Kyle.

“Tori is very quick,” Davis said. “She's a huge offensive weapon. So it's just not always the best utilization for her to be the one taking the snaps. … and then Emma Kyle she's gonna play a lot of quarterback too. She's very consistent, but same thing. She's such an offensive weapon. It's not, it's not just always beneficial for her to take all the snaps either.”

Pyles and Kyle are hardly the only returners expected to make a splash for the offense this season. Davis said senior Alex Harvard would play a critical role on both sides of the ball this year.

And it sounds like newcomer Rose Shepard could be one of the biggest surprises this season.

She has explosive speed,” Davis said. “She's very quick, and we're very excited to see what she can do for us.”

Moody isn’t the only area team planning to play multiple kids at the quarterback spot. Pollard said Leeds would play both Lillie Harrigan and Trinity Gaddy.

“With these two, from day one, they took it serious,” Pollard said. “And they do what it takes to learn and study the plays and stuff like that. And I think their leadership is good as well.”

Although Leeds doesn’t have experienced players to lean on this season, Pollard expects big things from running back Maya Hall, who he describes as a natural that holds herself as if she’s played for the last 10 years.

On the defensive side, Leeds will lean heavily on freshman Finley Bell.

“She pulls flags better than me. … Everybody wants to score touchdowns,” Pollard said. “But she has truly embraced the role of defensive anchor on the team and she is really good at what she does."

Sports Writer Tyler Waldrep: 256-299-2133. On Twitter: @tylerwaldrep