Halfway through the first CIF-sanctioned girls’ flag football season, a number of Southland teams have stood out, particularly in Orange County. Heading the list is Newport Harbor, which blanked Laguna Beach last week for its 12th shutout and 18th victory in 19 games under coach Jason Guyser.
“It’s a combination of good athletes and the players taking instruction really well,” said Guyser, who sees flag football as a cross between basketball and tackle football. “I have 14 girls and 12 of them play soccer so most of them weren’t very good at catching the ball at first, but they worked on it and they continue to.
“A lot of it is running routes, finding windows in a zone, being able to read the quarterback, those types of things. Defense is our stronghold. We’ve never given up more than two scores in a game.”
The Sailors have reeled off nine consecutive wins since their lone blemish, a 13-12 setback at the hands of Woodbridge in the final of the SoCal Showcase on Sept. 9. They ousted Woodbridge 33-13 to win the South County Showdown 14 days later, led by junior quarterback Maia Helmar, who was selected most valuable player.
“Quarterback is a critical position in flag since you won’t be able to run the ball against good teams,” Guyser said. “You have a couple of seconds to make a decision, that’s it. This is Maia’s first year at quarterback. She prefers wide receiver, where she played last year, but was willing to switch for the team. She’s got an incredibly strong arm, great instincts, she’s athletic and can really fire the ball.”
Helmar has passed for 57 touchdowns and has plenty of talented targets, like receivers Kate Kubiak (20 touchdowns) and Cooper Dick (10 touchdown catches and 15 interceptions on defense).
“The Sunset League is loaded so to win it would be a huge accomplishment,” Guyser said. “We went undefeated in the first half, which I didn’t expect with teams like Edison, Corona del Mar, Huntington Beach and Marina. With no playoffs yet, that’s our end goal.”
Mark Thompson has piloted Woodbridge to a 17-2 start — both losses were to Newport Harbor — and first place in the Pacific Coast League. Senior quarterback Teagan Burrus, a center on the basketball team, receiver Zoey Ceman and safety Milan Heisdorf, who clinched the Warriors’ latest win on a 60-yard interception return with a minute left, lead a team ranked No. 2 in the nation behind Newport Harbor, according to MaxPreps.com.
Esperanza was unbeaten entering Saturday’s league game against Foothill, powered by sophomore sensation Madilyn Lam. Playing in 12 of the Aztecs’ first 13 contests, she passed for 2,155 yards and 37 touchdowns, rushed for 467 yards and 12 touchdowns, and made 11 catches for 145 yards and three scores.
No quarterback has put up more impressive numbers than Rosary senior Katie Meneses, who tossed four touchdown passes in a 32-12 triumph over Irvine University to win the gold division championship at the Mission Viejo tournament on Sept. 23. Through 20 games she has completed 390 of 620 passes for 4,483 yards and 74 touchdowns with 18 interceptions.
The Royals (15-5) will try to upend Esperanza in a nonleague showdown Tuesday in Fullerton with the help of freshman linebacker Audrinah Barajas, who has 87 tackles, 12 interceptions (scoring on two) and 25 pass deflections.
In Los Angeles County, Redondo Union (7-1) has a potent attack led by junior quarterback Kaya Aguirre (eight touchdowns in the Sea Hawks’ first three games) and receivers Hailey Gavin-Wences and Kayla Roe.
Lakewood St. Joseph (11-3) is riding the rocket arm of freshman Lexi Loya, who has 28 touchdown passes and only three interceptions for the Jesters.
Long Beach Poly has won seven of eight, including all five in the Moore League, under coach and athletic director Rob Shock. The Jackrabbits’ only defeat was 13-7 to Woodbridge at the LA Chargers Invitational on Aug. 19. Five days later they traveled to Nike headquarters in Oregon to play in the NFL Kickoff Classic and beat Serra 31-6.
Pacing Poly are quarterback Aaya McLyn and sisters Tiare and Ki’ele Ho-Ching, who also excel in softball.
Westlake has emerged as a Ventura County powerhouse, posting five shutouts in 10 games under coach Brandon Alexander. The Warriors were 3-0 in the LA Rams Jamboree on Sept. 23 thanks to quarterback Grace Roscowick and Melaina Servé, who has three pick-sixes. Roscowick threw to Kalia Bell in the end zone as time expired to beat Newbury Park 12-6 on Thursday.
Other teams to watch in the Southern Section include Orange Lutheran, Corona del Mar, Edison, El Dorado, Dos Pueblos, Knight, Oxnard, Santa Monica, Marina and Aliso Niguel, which won the silver division title at the Mission Viejo tournament.
San Pedro, Eagle Rock and Crenshaw are the cream of the crop in the City Section, which has 52 schools participating in its inaugural season.
San Pedro finished 4-0 to claim the Los Angeles City Classic championship Sept. 25 in Harbor City. The Pirates avenged a nonleague loss to Eagle Rock 10 days earlier with a 14-8 victory in the final. Noelani Raigans caught two touchdown passes and a two-point conversion to capture MVP honors.
Eagle Rock is dominating the Northern League. In the team’s first 11 games, senior quarterback and captain Teiya Hermida had 32 touchdown passes and speedy junior Haylee Weatherspoon recorded 10 interceptions and 23 touchdowns (five rushing, 14 receiving and four pick-sixes).
Coliseum League front-runner Crenshaw (9-1) has outscored opponents 223-20 behind versatile junior quarterback and safety Talita Robinson, who has thrown for 455 yards and 11 touchdowns and has eight takeaways and 22 pass deflections on defense.
Unlike the Southern Section, the City will have two 16-team playoff brackets (Open and Division I), with the finals set for 3 and 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 at Birmingham High. The Open final will be televised by Channel 36.