CRESTVIEW — Football in high schools was always about the boys — but that all changed five years ago when girls flag football was introduced in Okaloosa County high schools.
The 2014 season began with only four schools fielding teams: Crestview, Choctaw, Fort Walton Beach and Niceville. The league has more than doubled since then.
Crestview head coach David Welch has been with the team for the past three years. After two years as an assistant, he became the head coach this year.
“I love football. I’ve coached for boys football,” said Welch. “I just love coaching. I just love trying to make an impact on young kids’ lives.”
The Crestview flag football team has 35 players, 11 of which make up the varsity team. Welch said he is seeing improvements from the team. Most of the team plays on both the offense and the defense.
“We started getting better last year and this year we’re building the program,” Welch said.
Halee Duncan, the team’s quarterback, is in her first year on varsity. Duncan was supposed to play last season, but was unable to compete due to an injury.
“She’s really impressed me with how she’s matured and starting to read things,” Welch said of his quarterback.
Welch said the defense has been a major part of the team’s success this year.
“They’re the ones that keep us in the game,” Welch said. “Our defense as a group has just really stepped up and shut out other offenses.
“I just think as a group, as a whole, our whole varsity team’s amazing,” added Welch. “They’ve really stepped up the program.”
Welch said that making the program better starts at the junior varsity level.
“The key is you have to build the JV program so that it’s going to feed your varsity program in later years to come,” said Welch.
The team will be losing five seniors after this year, but Welch believes members of the JV squad will be ready to step up next season.
While the rules for flag football are not all the same as regular football, Welch thinks the girls still enjoy the competition.
“It’s a sport that relates with the boys sports that they can compete on another level,” said Welch. “It’s not really a contact sport, but it does have a lot of contact in it. It kind of shows they're competing.
“Plus it’s cool and it’s fun,” he added.