Valley flag football gives girls chance to play the sport

Published 11:00 am Saturday, September 17, 2022

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Valley’s flag football team traveled to Auburn on Wednesday to play their first ever game in program history.

Even though the girls lost 46-0 on the road, the flag football program still gave the girls a chance to play a sport that is generally male dominated. Valley head coach Fern Piper got the opportunity to teach these girls the game of football.

“Casey Chambley called me and asked if I was interested in starting the program, and I jumped on it,” Piper said. Piper has two sons who play football, and that influenced her decision to coach flag football.

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“They’ve played football their whole lives, but they never played flag football,” Piper said. We’re starting with the basics. We’re going to build our way up. It wasn’t too hard to get girls to join. They were pretty excited about it.”

Valley’s quarterback this season is senior Caitlyn Clark, and she has wanted to play flag football for awhile.

“Whenever the AHSAA approved it to be a sport, I tried to get it last year for my junior year,” Clark said. “We didn’t have enough time. I’ve always grown up loving football. When we finally got a coach that would do it for us, I got a bunch of girls that were interested.”

The Valley flag football team has 21 girls, and they’re all still learning the game.

“It’s becoming so much more popular,” Piper said. “It’s been more dominant out west than it’s been here. It’s now growing here, and I feel like we have a lot of local schools who are pushing it. We’ve got a lot of support from even a lot of the football players. I think it’s a fun growing sport, and I’m happy that they have the opportunity to start building it.”

Valley High is the only school in Chambers County with a flag football team.

Clark is happy that she gets the opportunity to play a sport that is mostly for boys.

“It’s a great opportunity for us girls because football has always been a boy’s sport,” Clark said. “Now that they’re offering flag football, it’s a great opportunity for the girls to get to do what they want to do.”

Piper didn’t rule out girls playing for Valley’s contact football teams, but she believes flag football is a better fit for her girls.

“There’s always that opportunity because of Title IX,” Piper said. “As long as they go to summer workouts, the coaches don’t tell them they can’t play. Flag football opens up a better option for girls because my personal belief is there’s a time where girls stop gaining strength and boys continue gaining strength. You have that gap. Now the girls can be with other girls with their own level of aggression and not get run over all the time.”

For Piper, it’s not about the score or the wins and losses, it’s about learning.

“We went into that game knowing it was going to be a learning experience,” Piper said. “It was our first game. We’ve been trying to go by the books. We haven’t seen it played on the field. We’ve been watching YouTube and things like that. We went into it knowing we were going to have to figure some stuff out.”

The Rams had to adjust in such an intimidating environment.

“They were timid in the first quarter,” Piper said. “That’s a big stadium to walk into. Auburn was number two in the state last year. As the game went on, they got more aggressive and comfortable. Even though we didn’t score, you could see a lot of growth over four quarters. I was really proud of them.”

Clark also had to learn the game, especially since she’s the quarterback.

“We were all nervous, but as we went on they got more aggressive, so we did the same thing,” Clark said. “We learned a lot in the fourth quarter.”

Although they’re learning how to play football, Piper knows there are some key differences between flag and contact football.

“You can’t just push up the middle,” Piper said. “You have to get outside because if you push up the middle, everybody just snatches your flags. We figured out real quick it was going to be more hands on than we thought it would be. They pushed back and shoved back. Long passes don’t generally work. We worked on a lot yesterday at practice.”

Piper wants to grow the program, especially with consolidation looming.

“We want to continue to grow it. These girls are special enough,” Piper said.

“This is the first year Valley has ever had a flag football team. That’s history in of itself. This may be the last Valley high school flag football [team, due to consolidation]. I’m proud of their courage. They’re lifting each other up no matter what happens.”

For Piper, flag football is more than just learning football. She believes it gives her girls confidence.

“I think it will make them stand out more in their natural lives, whether that be boyfriends or men in general,” Piper said. “They can go get an interview with a guy and not be scared. They’re learning to be that kind of aggressive in the game. They’re learning no fear. They’re getting that boost, and they’re learning on the fly. Their confidence at the end of the season will be higher.”

The Rams will play one more game this season against Opelika on Sept. 21.