The Long County Lady Blue Tide flag football team has had a ton of success in its first two seasons of existence. In year three, they are focused on competing for a region championship and advancing deeper into the state playoffs.
Coach Paul Austin is in his third year coaching the Lady Tide flag football team after spending more than a decade coaching tackle football. He said he’s been fortunate to start from the ground up and build a successful program.
“Well, the awesome thing about starting a new program is that you get to watch the girls grow more than in any other sport they may have played before,” Austin said. “I literally had to teach what the line of scrimmage was and an offsides means.”
Watching his now upperclassmen grow from being nearly clueless about the sport of football has been an adventure for Austin.
“My seniors and juniors were freshmen and sophomores when we first started,” he said. “Some are now three-year starters. We are able to do more in year three than previous years. We are still teaching the basics but can really focus on in-depth football knowledge and skills.”
At this point of flag football, Austin knows that the first few games are unpredictable with a few key pieces gone playing other sports. He said that has been an even bigger challenge this year with nearly half the team still playing softball.
He also said used the summer to really prepare his girls for success and had the opportunity to play in tournaments against some of the best teams in the country.
“Right now we are missing a lot of pieces because of the playoffs in other sports. So building our team in spring and having my team this summer has been huge for us,” he said. “This summer, we were able to play in some amazing tournaments against some of the best teams in the nation. We were invited to play in the Jacksonville Jaguars Nike Tournament and the Battle of the Borders Tournament in Valdosta.”
The team has played in two straight quarterfinals and finished second in the region in both seasons. Despite losing a large number of players from last year, Austin believes they are still ready to take the next step in winning a region title and advancing past the third round of the playoffs.
“We have been very blessed with amazing athletes since our beginning,” he said. “I believe with graduation, and girls moving, we lost 14 from last season. We have made some small adjustments this summer to help us take a shot at the region. I couldn’t be more proud of my girls and the work they have put in to prepare for this season. They are hungry and focused.”
Austin has done the best he can with blocking outside distractions and noise coming from those that say the team is ready to win a state championship.
He said it is a challenge, but he wants them to just focus on the next opponent. He is aware of the team’s talent and the chance they have to compete, but he wants them to keep their eye on the prize: the next game.
“We want to focus on the next game in front of us and play explosive and elite every snap,” he said. “We stay in that mindset and focus on what we can control, anything can happen in the playoffs. Our focus is getting to the playoffs.”
The team is led by three-year starting quarterback Kyleigh Sizemore, who has thrown for over 4,000 yards and nearly 50 touchdowns the last two years. She, junior running back Makinzie Moody and defensive backs junior Kelly Stokes and senior Yuridia Sellars will be key pieces to the team this year.
On Monday, the team hosted Richmond Hill in a scrimmage. The junior varsity team lost 12-7 but had some big contributions from freshman Jayleen Vazquez, younger sister of star alum Melissa Vazquez.
Vazquez intercepted two passes, returning one 60 yards for a touchdown.
In the varsity game, Stokes stepped in for Sizemore at quarterback, throwing two touchdowns to Sara Barnes and Kyndall Johnson in a 13-0 win. The varsity defense did not allow a first down in the game until there was 9 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
The Blue Tide officially kick off the season Tuesday, Oct. 24 when they travel to Savannah to take on Beach and Johnson.