In the inaugural season of the CMS flag football league, the Julius Chambers Cougars emerged from a pack of 20 teams to become the first-ever league champions.
For the girls competing, participation in the league was not just about flag football. There was also a chance to make history, playing a first-ever organized sport in Mecklenburg County as well as to promote women in sports.
“I think this is huge,” former Carolina Panther MIke Rucker said. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg. I love football and this is just another entry point for girls’ flag football. I’m excited to be able to partner up and be involved as this starts to lift off.”
Sunday’s event gathered all 20 CMS schools at Bank of America Stadium, and each team played their final two regular-season games. Then, the top two teams from each conference made the semifinals, after which the winners played in the championship game.
Chambers finished its season undefeated and beat Berry Academy in the semifinals, while Butler played Ardrey Kell in the other semifinal, in which the Bulldogs held the lead the entire game to move on to the championship.
During halftime of the championship game, CMS athletic director Erica Turner spoke about how vital the league is, and what it means not just for Charlotte-area students, but for many others around the state.
“I think this is a great opportunity for our young ladies,” Turner said. “Being intentional about trying to create those opportunities and try to close that gender gap, this is just a small step in the right direction.”
After the conclusion of the championship game, Chambers head coach Tiana Alexander was overcome with emotion and pride. Her team will always be the first champion.
“I don’t know if I can really describe my emotions,” Alexander said. “I am super proud of the girls that we have. I knew coming in that we had over 60 girls trying out and that it was going to be a good team.”
Coach Alexander was confident that once she narrowed her team down after tryouts, the girls selected would be the ones to take her team all the way.
“These are the girls for this team, the very first team, and they are going to take it all the way,” Alexander added. “I am just excited. I cannot describe to you how I feel. All the work that they put in, how many practices they have a week. We really don’t have off days and they always want to go because they love each other.”
Quarterback Kaitlyn Goodwin emphasized how special it was to be a part of the league, and what this experience has taught her.
“It feels great,” Goodwin said. “During the season we had to remain humble. Our practices were okay. There were moments where we were tapped in, tapped out and this taught me how to be patient and humble.”
This season was really a test run for the league, organizers said, and from the fan feedback, as well as players and coaches, it was a success. They said there will be a push to make girls flag football a true varsity sport.
“Let’s just do it,” Turner said. “You see the excitement, you see they are having fun. There are also scholarship opportunities for these young ladies on the college level to play flag football, so as much as we can create more opportunities for the girls, it is time to do it.”