ECI has a deep, long-running tradition of excellence on the gridiron. In that regard, the school’s inaugural flag football team has big expectations to fulfill.
The Emanuel County Board of Education approved flag football at the high school level for both Swainsboro and ECI earlier this year. Right away, Dedra Kearson—who happens to be the wife of beloved ECI head football coach Chris Kearson—knew she wanted to be involved.
“When the possibility of the sport coming to ECI was made known, I immediately expressed an interest in coaching the team, along with my sister, Dawn,” she said. “Competition runs deep in our family!”
Over the summer, the two sisters met with interested players. Tryouts were held in mid-September, and 25 young ladies made the team and began practicing September 20. The Lady Dawgs will open their season next Tuesday, October 26, in Claxton.
“Right now, we’re having to share our athletes with another school sport that is still in season. We’re practicing when it works best for most players to be there,” Kearson explained.
Positions aren’t set in stone yet, but the team’s leader expects the group to be “well-rounded” with several players filling multiple positions. Beyond the willingness to play wherever they’re needed, Kearson already sees a number of other positive traits about the inaugural team. The girls have chemistry, are willing to be students of the game, and, most importantly, are excited to wear the E.
“Each girl is a team player. They encourage each other on and off the field, they’re always looking to learn and improve, and they can’t wait for the season to start,” Kearson continued. “I’ve already told them what it’s going to take for us to be successful. We have to work hard, learn from mistakes, and never forget who we’re playing for. Our goals for this year are to work hard when no one’s looking, put in what you expect to get out, and win.”
A copy of ECI’s schedule is printed along with this article. Some of their competition will be stiff. For example, Portal High School made it to the state championship last year, and Statesboro High plays in a classification six times ECI’s size.
Be that as it may, ECI is ready to get to work. Taking the field for the first time on behalf of their school in the sport of flag football next week are: one eighth grader, Aubrey Hudson; freshmen Kinley Grimes, Smith Willoughby, Jayna Kearson, Abbey Marsh, Kayanna Thompson, Destine Hirschy, and Dayla Bethea; sophomores Nariah Carlyle, Jarei Oglesby, Asia Gibbons, and Sheila Carlyle; juniors Sara Catherine Kraus, Charla Clifton , Sullee Boddiford, Kelsey Harper, Shayla Stephenson, Ally Taylor, Kaylan Lamb, and Lily Kate Robertson; and a handful of seniors, Alaya Hudson, Macy Canady, Semya Williams, Ajaylah Holmes, Ashanti Smith, and Jada Steele.