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HIGH-SCHOOL

Washington County girls flag football kicks off with a clinic

Andy Mason
The Herald-Mail

A girls flag football clinic, sponsored by the and , was held Tuesday evening at North Hagerstown's Mike Callas Stadium.

If an event can be judged by the smiles and laughter of its participants, it's safe to say that this one was a huge success.

This fall will be the inaugural season of girls flag football as a high school sport in Washington County, with Boonsboro, Clear Spring, North Hagerstown, Smithsburg, South Hagerstown and Williamsport set to field teams.

A total of 82 girls from those schools were on hand for Tuesday's two-hour clinic, which went over the basic fundamentals of the game.

"It's a really good turnout," said Eric Michael, the WCPS supervisor of athletics. "There are a lot of girls out there, and they seem pretty excited. Just walking on the field and listening to the girls, you hear laughs.

"These girls that are here tonight will probably go tell friends, and we'll have more people interested in playing."

South Hagerstown quarterback Naomi Powell tries to get away from Boonsboro's Madyson Davis during the Washington County girls flag football clinic at North Hagerstown.

Frederick County blazed the trail

The clinic was directed by Urbana girls flag football coach Nick Damoulakis.

Last fall, in partnership with the Baltimore Ravens and Under Armour, Frederick County Public Schools became the first district in Maryland to offer girls flag football as a varsity sport, with all 10 of its high schools participating.

"I love this sport," Damoulakis said. "I love being out here and being a part of this, giving the girls the opportunity and teaching them how to play ball. I wanted to carry on the lessons that we learned from doing it in Frederick."

After a successful pilot season in Frederick County, the Ravens and Under Armour expanded their partnerships in the state. This fall, 51 high schools in Maryland will have girls flag football programs.

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

"Just to have girls on the football field for the first time, experiencing what it's like to catch a football and running it in for a touchdown, it's awesome," Damoulakis said. "It's awesome that females get to experience that feeling for the first time in the state of Maryland. I'm just happy to be part of it."

Ravens are funding the teams

Adam Rudel, the Ravens' senior manager of marketing and football outreach, attended Tuesday's clinic.

He said the Ravens made a donation to WCPS to fund each school's flag football program, while Under Armour is providing the uniforms.

"The donation covers coaching stipend, transporation, officials' fees, and the Ravens also contribute the equipment necessary to play -- belts, balls, cones and stuff like that," Rudel said.

Why is this important to an NFL team?

"We're looking to level the playing field and grow the game of football," Rudel said. "We want to provide an opportunity for girls to play this great game. The inclusivity piece is huge to us, giving girls an opportunity to get on the field and ascend through the ranks, hopefully play collegiately, and ."

Smithsburg's Kayla Hawbecker participates in the Washington County girls flag football clinic at North Hagerstown.

'A lot of people dual-sporting'

This past school year, as a junior at Smithsburg, Kayla Hawbecker was a key member of the cross country and indoor and outdoor track teams, helping the Leopards win Class 1A state titles in all three seasons.

"I'm going to do flag football and cross country this fall," she said after Tuesday's clinic. "My primary will still be cross country because I have to go with that, my main sport. Flag football is for fun and helps break up the running all year long.

"I'm pretty excited," she added. "It's something brand new and something really fun. I'm really excited to play with all of these girls. 鈥 A lot of these girls play soccer as well so there will be a lot of people dual-sporting."