By Sam Ekstedt
Nov 1st, 2023
With 18 games already under their belt this year, the new HBHS Girls Flag Football team exploded onto the scene. They've been going strong with 12 winning games so far this season. They came into this brand new and little-known sport with low expectations, "This year, there were supposed to be no playoffs. There were supposed to be 100 teams in California, and now it's up to around 500. They are holding a playoff backed by CIF, so I see it getting really big" said their coach, Zack Pannell, regarding what he sees for the future of Girls’ Flag Football.
In its first year, Girls Flag Football has been bringing together a variety of skillful athletes pioneering the way for girls to come. Captain Gracie Cogan said, "We all come from different sports. Whether it's rowing, soccer, or softball, I feel like we all have the same interests and the same drive, so we work well together." As the foundation of this sport here at HBHS, they are setting the tone for Girls Flag Football; about that, Captain Jaiden Anderson said, "The chemistry is great here. We're all very friendly; we love each other. It's still competitive, but it's very fun."
Being on a high school sports team comes with lasting friendships and camaraderie that you'd be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Girls Flag Football this year has been cultivating new opportunities for girls to create incredible memories together as not just a team, but a community. Captain Sydney Harris said, "I didn't play a sport here, so that was something that specifically drew me because being in a school sport is very fun and exciting. It's not as stressful as other things I do. It's something that I can really enjoy." This season, Girls Flag Football has had an underdog story, usually reserved for the movies. In one of their first games against Corona Del Mar, they were beaten by seven points. Determined and spirited, they got revenge and snatched the winning score from Corona Del Mar. Coach Pannell said, "Yeah, they beat us the first time, and they were ranked 5th in the nation, so to go out there and get that win back at our place was definitely the highlight."
The Girls Flag Football Team is led by an experienced coaching staff. Coach Zack Pannell taught Girls Flag Football for another school six years prior and has loved coaching the sport since then. You can see that expertise and care in how the team performs. The coaches bring out the best in every one of them. "I love our coaches. Zack and Tyler are awesome. I think they have a good balance of having fun and being serious, and I think it's been shown. When we're having fun, we play better, and they bring just as much energy as everyone else," commented Captain Sydney Harris.
When asked about his coaching philosophy, Coach Pannell stated he believes if you "Do the best you can, and if you come with your maximum level of effort and you have a good attitude doing it, I believe that you can be the best you can possibly be. If we have fifteen, sixteen girls doing that on a whole squad, it makes it that much better."
HBHS Girls Flag Football team is creating a tight-knit community of competitive and skilled players that exemplify the Oilers spirit. It's already gaining momentum, and these girls will surely blow fans away. Go, get out there and root for your Girls Flag Football team!