LUDOWICI – There was history not once, but twice on the grill for the Long County Blue Tide in 2021. Earlier this year, the Blue Tide boys’ soccer team played in the playoffs for the first time. times in team history and next week, the women’s flag football team will do the same.
What is perhaps even more special about the Lady Tide flag football team is that they started their team this season. This is only the second season of GHSA flag football and the team finished the year 10-2, 7-1 in the region.
Head coach Paul Austin retired from football training on Friday night after spending the 2020 season as the offensive coordinator of the Blue Tide. Initially, he said he made the decision to move away to “continue research on sharks in the summers” and also noted that “the coaching campaign is gone.”
However, after having the opportunity to lead the very first flag football team in Long County and meeting girls who would lead his team, he fell in love with coaching on the grill again.
âThis year has been so fun for me,â Austin said. âThese girls taught me a lot. They are so coachable and eager to learn … This team and this sport has created a new training spirit in me. These girls have no idea what impact they have had on my coaching life. Don’t get me wrong, the matches and the wins are awesome, but the workouts are just as special to me because these kids are so special to train.
In the team’s 10 wins, they outscored their opponents 288-24 and recorded eight shutouts. The team was at one point ranked third in the state and sixth in the nation.
The team is led by second-year quarterback Kyleigh Sizemore, who over the year amassed 1,340 yards and 33 TDs with no interceptions. Sizemore’s favorite target, Amiyah Simpkins – another sophomore – recorded 585 yards and 17 touchdowns of 30 catches.
Sizemore and Simpkins both led the region in passing and receiving. Austin had nothing but good things to say about all of his players who do the work it takes to be successful every day.
âAll the success that this team has had points on these amazing girls,â he said. âFrom day one these girls were ready to workâ¦ They are amazing athletes and really talented, but they work every day to be the elite. They focus on their work and trust that others will do theirs.
The team’s only losses came against Southeast Bulloch and Calvary Day, two undefeated regional champions. The Cavaliers are the reigning state champions who have yet to lose a game in their two-year history.
The Tide ended their regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 17 with two wins over Beach and Johnson and have since seen their fate in the first round of the state playoffs.
This led to a new challenge for the Lady Tide: getting ready for the playoffs during the school holidays. It’s obviously something new for Austin and the team, but they’ve had to adapt regardless and know they’re not alone.
âIt’s definitely a challenge. Most of my daughters are out of town with their families, âAustin said. “We have set aside a few days to get together … I’m sure other teams have the same issues.”
Although the team finished second in the region, Lady Tide will not get a home game in the first round of the state playoffs. The GHSA set it up where each region champion hosts the first and second rounds.
The Lady Tide drew the Swainsboro Tigers in the first round and will travel to the seeded host Hebron Christian Academy for the first round game.
âSwainsboro is athletic,â Austin said. âThey are directing the ball well. We will have to launch our attack early to control the weather. It should be a good game. “
The Tigers finished 5-2, 3-2 in Zone 3, good enough to earn them the third seed. In their five wins, they got three shutouts and outscored their opponents 121-25.
JaMia Smith appears to be their all-rounder as she is one of the team’s top receivers and leads the team in tackles and sacks.
The Tide will travel to Dacula for the first round of the playoffs on Tuesday, November 30 with a start time of 5:00 p.m. With a win, the team would face host winner Hebron Christian Academy and Shaw on the same day.