Spartans bring skills to new place

Led by coach Necole Tunsil, multi-sport athletes and cheerleaders, Lakewood runs its record to 5-0.

Published April 5, 2005

ST. PETERSBURG - Innekia Reedy is used to breaking ankles.

Making sudden cuts to get by defenders isn't new to the Lakewood sophomore.

A guard for the Spartans' 19-8 playoff basketball squad this year, Reedy showed off her athletic pedigree on a different surface Monday.

Playing running back for the 5-0 Lakewood girls flag football squad, Reedy frustrated Northeast defenders, forcing numerous missed tackles and penalties in a 25-0 rout.

Quarterback Sade Brown and receiver Kquanise Byrd hooked up for two scores. Both are also key members of Lakewood's basketball team.

"These ladies have an advantage because they understand how intense basketball is," Lakewood coach Necole Tunsil said. "These girls asked me to coach. I told them at the first day of practice that if we weren't going to win, then I wasn't going to do it."

In five games, the undefeated Spartans have outscored opponents 158-6.

Tunsil, Lakewood's girls basketball coach, is making her flag football coaching debut. She was skeptical about a team made up of basketball players and cheerleaders.

But her perception quickly changed.

"They took off their skirts and played football," Tunsil said. "These cheerleaders are rougher than my basketball players. They are actually the ones that provided the spark. We have six cheerleaders on defense."

According to Byrd, fans underestimate the intensity. That players from other sports use flag football only as extra conditioning is also a myth, Byrd said.

"This is serious," Byrd said. "You win or go home."

Northeast (4-1) finally has competition. The Vikings breezed through county play last season en route to state.

"It's good to play a team like this in the county," Northeast coach Dan Dotter said. "When you play a team like this with so many athletes, you have to be ready. We are still jelling."

With the help of football players Anthony Butler and Rashawn Williams and basketball star Brian Caruthers, Tunsil's job has been easy.

The three football-crazy assistants created five defenses and 40 offensive plays for the squad's playbook.

"I'll get the accolades, but they are the heart and soul of our team," Tunsil said. "They'll come back with a complete breakdown of the previous game. They meet with the coaches and then with the players to discuss strategies. We are serious about this."

--Meyla Hooker can be reached by phone at 727 445-4224 or e-mail mhooker@sptimes.com