Flag football team is a melting pot of athletes

Tina Harbuck

What do you get when you combine a few soccer players, with a golfer, throw in a discus thrower and a few softball and basketball players? Enough athletes to field a flag football team.

For the first time ever, Destin Middle School is fielding a girl’s flag football team and the girls love it.

“I just love being out there with the team and we have great coaches,” said Natalie Denton.

“It’s just a lot of fun to try a new sport that we’ve never had," Denton said. "It's fun to branch out and try something new."

Denton, who plays soccer for the Marlins, also plays on both sides of the football. On offense she plays running back and linebacker on defense.

As for Trinity Treadway, a discus thrower, she is the starting center for the team and says it hasn’t been that hard to learn the game.

“It’s not that hard to remember what route to run, but memorizing the plays is a little bit hard. It just takes practice.”

However, she does admit to getting a little anxious about snapping the ball.

“All the stress is on you to get the play rolling … you have to make sure you have a good quality snap. I get nervous about that sometimes. But then I get my game face on and snap the ball and do whatever I have to, to protect the quarterback.”

Thus far the girls have played four games with two more to go.

The Lady Marlins will take on Davidson at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and Bruner at 5:30 p.m. Both games will be played in Destin.

“They have picked it up quick,” said Coach Daniel Griffin, noting the girls have had to learn the game from the floor up.

“They’ve had to learn how the game is played in general, how to line up, what their responsibilities are and understanding,” Griffin said.

He said the boy’s football team start practice in May and don’t play until August.

The girls have had to learn the game in warp speed.

“These girls have been asked to learn in three weeks both offense and defense … and just how to play football,” Griffin said.

“But they are competitive,” he added.

Coach Demetris Stevens, who works with the defense, says the team is coming around.

“There was an uptick after the Meigs game,” Stevens said.

“For a lot of them it was their first time playing an organized sport at competition level and what game speed looks like. Once they saw it on the field, they understood the need to focus a little more at practice,” Stevens said.

For Blakely York, a softball and volleyball player for the Marlins, turned football player, she says learning the names of the routes and the numbers has been hard to remember.

But she likes the response from the crowd in the stands when they make a big play.

“When you do good, everybody in the stands cheers for you … cause when you get a first down, that’s pretty big,” York said.

“It’s not like softball where everybody is hitting … it’s harder to get a first down,” York added.

As for Aaliyah Miille, she absolutely loves flag football.

“I love it. It’s so fun. It’s totally different than golf; this is a team sport,” said Miille who plays quarterback and running back for the Marlins.

Miille just wrapped up her golf season a couple of months ago as part of the championship team for the second year in a row.

“With gol, it’s your skill level. You don’t have to rely on a team. It’s about accuracy and precision. This is a totally different thing.

“And we have so many good athletes out here,” Miille said.

Coach Griffin agrees.

“Athletically we’ve matched up with the other teams,” he said.

“I think it is here to stay,” Griffin said.