Flag football: Knights, Warriors ready for rivalry game
Ahead of their annual rivalry game, the girls flag football teams at West Orange and Ocoee are having strong seasons despite tough district competition.
| 1:04 p.m. April 7, 2016
When the Ocoee Knights and West Orange Warriors girls flag football teams take the field April 11 at Raymond Screws Field, one thing is for sure — you can throw the records out the window.
“Just because it’s a rivalry game, it’s usually pretty close,” West Orange head coach Scott Fisher said. “Ocoee is a big game for us.”
Although this year’s matchup is not a district contest as it had been in past years (the programs were split in the latest round of realignment), there still will be plenty on the line — pride, bragging rights and momentum.
Especially for Ocoee seniors who have yet to top their rivals to the south, Monday’s game presents one final chance.
And — to sweeten the pot — both teams have gotten off to strong starts despite some stiff district competition.
The Knights are 3-1 as of April 4, not including an April 5 result against non-district foe Colonial.
The start is Ocoee’s best in the past four years, and seniors such as wide receiver/linebacker Janisha Joseph believe the program is creating a winning culture.
“What’s different is the work ethic and conversation on and off the field,” Joseph said. “I hope this year is the beginning of a new era.”
The Knights, who are 3-0 in Class 2A, District 2, also have a new quarterback who has jumpstarted their offense in junior Akila Smith.
“She has really been a game-changer for us,” head coach Cathy Edwards-Lee said, praising Smith’s strong arm and accuracy.
Ocoee has defeated DeLand, Flagler and Spruce Creek this spring and has lost to Osceola. In flag football, only the top four teams in a district advance to the district tournament, and the Knights are optimistic they can not only make the field, but win the district.
Once again this spring, defense has been a strong feature for the Knights. So, too, has been leadership — of particular importance as the program enjoys a high level of success.
“These girls are very, very level-headed,” Edwards-Lee said, complimenting the team’s character.
It could be argued that, of the two programs, Ocoee got the better deal in realignment for this spring.
That’s not to say the Knights’ district is easy. Rather, the Warriors’ new district might be one of the toughest in the state. Just this week, West Orange (3-3) had district games against Boone (a 21-18 loss) and Dr. Phillips (April 6, result after press time) — the No. 5 team in the state and an honorable mention, respectively.
“It’s a tougher district than last year,” admitted senior quarterback Danine Cruz.
Still, despite a .500 record, the Warriors are an improved team on both sides of the ball this spring, with head coach Scott Fisher suggesting experience is a major factor.
“A lot of it is we’ve returned a bunch of girls from last year,” Fisher said. “Last year’s team had some athletes, but they just didn’t quite understand the game. (That understanding) has allowed us to take the next step in what we run.”
The Warriors’ district slate has been front-loaded with district contests — Wednesday’s game against Dr. Phillips was West Orange’s district finale and likely decided their fate in whether they made the district tournament.
As of April 4, the Warriors had wins over Evans, Olympia and Winter Park to accompany losses to Timber Creek, University and Boone.
Whatever the case, the Warriors won’t have a problem getting pumped up for a chance to defeat their rivals to the north once again.
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Monday in Winter Garden.