Championship or bust for Spartans

Published May 3, 2007

ST. PETERSBURG - Natasha Brooks wants a ring on her finger. Super Bowl champions get one, why not the Lakewood flag football team?

Brooks is one of nine Spartans who reached the state final last year, but saw an undefeated season end in a 26-19 loss to Miramar. This week Lakewood is preparing for its second run through state and vows to bring back a title.

"We want to come back state champions and we want a ring, " said Brooks, who added coach Necole Tunsil has been made aware of the fact all the girls want hardware.

"She wants one too."

"I think we have more business to take care of, " Kquanise Byrd said. "If we're going to settle for this (13-1 record), I don't think we should have come out here in the beginning. When the season started our goal was going to the state championship and that's where we are going to end up at."

Lakewood breezed through its 2006 schedule. Some players admit they thought just showing up would win the championship. Instead they learned they were not the only team in Florida taking flag football seriously.

"We need to play more as a team, " Innekia Reedy said. "The team that beat us in the championship could do anything."

Competing in the state tournament brought a lot of attention to flag football at Lakewood and it wasn't hard to convince a lot of new girls to go out for the team this year. Tunsil said many have contributed. Just last week Shereka Boone moved from JV to varsity and caught a touchdown against Dunedin.

"Who doesn't want to be on a winning team?" Byrd said. "They've done a good job. I don't think they understood the type of work we do out here, but everything we've given them and told them to run with, they've done their jobs and more."

This year's team also received extra help defensively - from another coach. Courtney Brown usually is the defensive coordinator for the football team, but it only took one season of watching the flag football program's success to convince the coach to help the girls.

"It's very challenging, " Brown said. "The girls listen more than the guys. With that attitude, I felt I could help coach."

Several players admitted the defense could have been better last year. Brown is taking the time to improve the quarterback rush and put more pressure on receivers.

"I'm a football fan, " Brooks said. "This is my favorite sport."

State quarterfinal

Where: West Boca Raton High School

When: Friday, 4 p.m.

Who: Riverview (13-0) vs. Lakewood (13-1)

Admission: $7 per session