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HIGH-SCHOOL

Six Washington County high schools will offer girls flag football in the fall

Portrait of Andy Mason Andy Mason
The Herald-Mail

Girls flag football is a in the United States, especially in Maryland.

Beginning next school year, six Washington County schools will field teams for the fall season. They include Boonsboro, Clear Spring, North Hagerstown, Smithsburg, South Hagerstown and Williamsport.

The announcement was made in a press release Monday by the Baltimore Ravens, who have partnered with Under Armour to provide grant funding and uniforms to 51 high schools in Maryland for their girls flag football programs.

"The wave is coming. It was whether we wanted to get ahead of it or be behind it," said Eric Michael, the Washington County Public Schools supervisor of athletics. "We felt it was an opportunity for us to jump on board and be at the forefront of this. It's an opportunity for our girls in Washington County and one they were asking for."

Last fall, Frederick County Public Schools became the first district in the state to offer girls flag football as a varsity sport, .

"When Frederick County started last year, young ladies from our schools reached out asking if we could start it in Washington County," Michael said. "At that point, we weren't sure of the process.

"In November, the Ravens invited us and all of the school systems to come see what this looked like and what they were willing to offer in terms of grant funding to help us get started."

Flag football is expanding nationwide as the next emerging high school sport for girls.

Along with the six schools in Washington County, all 25 public high schools in Montgomery County and 10 public high schools in Baltimore City are set to launch programs this fall.

"Since successfully implementing this initiative last year, our key focus has been to expand the reach of girls flag football," Ravens senior vice president of marketing Brad Downs stated in the release. "The participating schools are pioneering meaningful programs that shape a more inclusive version of our sport and have helped enrich the lives of many female student-athletes. The interest in and advancement of girls flag football brings us tremendous pride, and we feel a great deal of responsibility to continue growing this program throughout the state of Maryland."

What's the next step?

Obviously, each school will need players and coaches for a team.

"Probably right after the spring sports season is over, we'll do a coaches' clinic and a players' clinic at one of our turf fields, either at North High or Smithsburg, and the Ravens will come up and help run that," Michael said. "They'll bring some coaches from other places to help train our coaches and our athletes."

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Although no scheduling has been done, Michael said that each team will have an eight-game regular season, most likely beginning with a "Kickoff Classic," in which all six Washington County teams will play games on one field on the same day.

From there, he anticipates that the girls flag football games will be played as doubleheaders with JV football games on Wednesday nights, with the girls going first.

"There probably will be some kind of county championship, and that could lead to an advancement to a state playoff," Michael said. "We're still ironing out those details and what they may look like."

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Unlike other WCPS high school sports, girls flag football won't be under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association.

"It's kind of collaborative effort with the Ravens overseeing things," Michael said. "Now that we have Frederick County, Washington County, Montgomery County and Baltimore City schools, we're basically going to set up guidelines that we'll all follow, much like the MPSSAA. We anticipate in a few years that this will be an MPSSAA sport so we have to be ready to go."

Will flag football take away girls from other sports?

Some concern has been expressed that the addition of girls flag football in Washington County might lead to the detriment of other sports programs in the fall, such as soccer.

"That's one of the things we hear, but if you look at the data from Frederick County -- and there were the same concerns down there -- out of the total number of (flag football) players, 70% were kids who'd never played another sport," Michael said. "We will allow kids to dual-sport, so if a soccer players wants to try flag football, we'll allow that to occur.

"We don't want one program that we're starting to be the end of another program."