Flag football | Season Preview

Simu’s demeanor fuels Hollywood Hills’ play

 

Hollywood Hills quarterback Jacqueline Simu has gone from football novice to a First Team All-County player in Broward.

Season outlook

Key dates

Monday: Regular season began.

April 22-24: Districts.

April 27: First-round play-in games.

April 30: Second-round play-in games.

May 3-4: State finals at Gene Cox Stadium in Tallahassee.

Previous South Florida state champs

2012: Seminole Ridge

2006: Miramar

2003: Fort Lauderdale

Top returning players

Jacqueline Simu, Hollywood Hills, Sr.; Jahmara Parris, Hollywood Hills, Jr.; Sam Ball, Douglas, Sr.; Alexis Berger, Western, Sr.; Amanda Graboski, North Broward Prep, So.; Teddi Inkeles, North Broward Prep, So.; Morgan Huntman, North Broward Prep, Sr.; Toni Mendoza, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.; Alex Rivera, Archbishop McCarthy, Jr.; Elexus Martin, Mater Academy, Jr.; Alondra Angulo, Mater Academy, Fr.; Emily Acosta, Mater Academy, Fr.; Ashley Naterpaul, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; Sabrina Cabrera, Monsignor Pace, So.; Ja’Torria Washington, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; Ariana Connor, Monsignor Pace, Sr.; Isabella Sanchez, Somerset Academy, Sr.; Nivek Chapeton, Somserset Academy, Fr.

Outlooks — Miami-Dade County

1. Monsignor Pace (Coach John M. Rodriguez, 5th year, 42-12). Last year: 12-3 (First Round Play-In). Top players: Ashley Naterpaul, Sr.; Ja’Torria Washington, Sr.; Sabrina Cabrera, So.; Ariana Connor, Sr.

2. Mater Academy Charter (Coach Luis Sanchez, 3rd year, 14-8). Last year: 8-3 (District finalist). Top players: Alondra Angulo, Fr.; Elexus Martin, Jr.; Emily Acosta, Fr.; Sydney Johnson, 8th; Amanda Canellas, Sr.

3. Somerset Academy Charter (Coach Frank DeSousa, 3rd year, 10-8). Last year: 6-4 (District semifinalist). Top players: Isabella Sanchez, Sr.; Nivek Chapeton, Fr.; Amanda Brown, Sr.; Rebecca Gonzalez, Sr.; Brianna Brown, Fr.

4. Mater Academy East Charter – District semifinalist.

5. Hebrew Academy (Coach Robyn Malek, 9th year, 40-38). Last year: 4-6. Top players: Florencia Chami, 8th; Sarina Abramowitz, 8th; Rachel Kahn, So.; Raheli Matis, Jr.; Ahava Smith, Jr.

Outlooks — Broward County

1. North Broward Prep (Coach Tricia Amrhein, 8th year, 62-29). Last year: 16-2 (State semifinalist). Top players: Amanda Graboski, So.; Morgan Huntman, Sr.; Teddi Inkeles, So.; Emma Dineen, So.; Yasmin Ruffel-Smith, So.

2. Archbishop McCarthy (Coach Chris Cormier, 5th year, 25-16). Last year: 11-3 (State quarterfinalist). Top players: Toni Mendoza, Jr.; Alex Rivera, Jr.; Ashley Fernandez, Sr.; Alexus Gonzalez, Sr.

3. Fort Lauderdale (Coach James Whitfield). Last year: 13-1 (Second Round Play-In). Top players: Ashili McElhaney, Jr.; Angelica Mojica, So.; Allison Charlery, Sr.; Mirlene Jean Louis, Jr.; Rachel Debrosse, So.

4. Hollywood Hills (Coach Brandon Graham, 11th year, 78-33). Last year: 12-4 (Second Round Play-In). Top players: Jacqueline Simu, Sr.; Jahmara Parris, Jr.; Lieshia Sousa, Sr.; Kyra Hill, So.; Diana Quinteros, So.

5. Coconut Creek (First Round Play-In).

6. Western (Coach James O’Brien, 4th year). Last year: 12-2 (First Round Play-In). Top players: Alexis Berger, Sr.; Margaret Waite, Jr.; Christy Szeto, So.; Davaughnda Rosenkrantz, Sr.; Toni Porter, Sr.

7. Douglas (Coach Dave Piroozshad, 2nd year). Last year: 11-2 (District finalist). Top players: Sam Ball, Sr.; Rashawna Mogeat, Jr.; Sarah Fine, So.

8. Blanche Ely (Coach Clenner Goodman, 3rd year, 11th overall). Last year: 7-4 (District finalist). Top players: Velene Paul, Jr.; Vanessa Civil, Jr.; Jeanetta Hicks, So.; Sabethsa Devilmar, So.; Fatia Irving, So.

9. Cooper City (Coach Kevin Akinbiyi). Last year: 8-4. Top players: Madison Correa, Sr.; Mara Notkin, So.; Jaylyn Foland, So.; Jackie Smith, Jr.; Katherine Willoghby, So.; Destiny Harrell, Sr.

10. Plantation (Coach Will Banks, 4th year, 6th overall, 40-13). Last year: 6-4 (District finalist). Top players: Jazma Schou, Sr.; Heather Brekke.

11. McArthur (Coach Cliff Bush, 3rd year). Last year: 7-5 (District semifinalist). Top players: Juliann Andrews, Jr.; Cara Valcourt, Sr.; Geneva Darcius, Jr.; Gabrielle Johnson, Jr.; Jokalry Cabrea, So.

12. Cypress Bay (Coach Steve Leland, 7th at CB, 8th overall, 55-15). Last year: 7-6 (District semifinalist). Top players: Angela Hogan, Jr.; Brooke White, Jr.; Sherrell Buckley, Sr.; Yunoka Goldbourne, Sr.; Amanda Kreitzer, Sr.

13. Taravella (Coach David Coleman, 3rd year, 15-11). Last year: 6-7 (District semifinalist). Top players: Shanequa Jenkins, So.; Dominique Moore, Sr.; Jah-Nya Press, So.; McKenzie Malone, So.; Taylor Malone, So.

14. Hallandale (Coach Travis Montgomery). Last year: 4-6. Top players: Daisa Washington, Sr.; Lionia Hilaire, Sr.; Latoya Job, Sr.; Erica Tyler, So.; Andrea Tyler, So.

15. Coral Springs Charter (Coach Jeff Lindstrom, 2nd year). Last year: 2-6. Top players: Adrienne McChrystal, Fr.; Bailey Paulovich, Sr.

16. Monarch (Coach Joe Coyle, 2nd year). Last year: 2-8. To players: Samantha Mendez, Sr.; Alexis Gottko, Jr.; Kacey Cotter, So.

17. Flanagan (Coach Uchin, 1st year). Last year: 2-9. Top players: Chelsey Martin, Sr.; Lynzai Cutter, Sr.; Jessica Summers, Jr.; Taylor Coffee, So.; Lesandra Lockhart, Jr.


Special to The Miami Herald

In a moment of destiny, Hollywood Hills coach Brandon Graham briefly drew his attention away from football practice one fall day in 2011.

Out of the corner of his eye he watched as two girls — still in their volleyball practice gear — tossed a football back and forth in the back of the end zone to stave off boredom.

A few months later, one of those girls, Jacqueline Simu, would go on to become the team’s starting quarterback as a junior, finishing 301-of-445 with 3,327 yards, 35 passing touchdowns and three rushing touchdowns.

“I looked down there and she had no idea what she was doing, but I said, ‘That’s a quarterback,’ ” Graham said. “I guess we got lucky that day.”

Graham walked over to ask Simu, who stands 5-10, whether she would be interested in joining the flag football team. A friend and volleyball teammate had already started to convince her throughout the school year.

When Graham told Simu to stop by practice on a Saturday, she did. She was thrown straight into conditioning and told to play quarterback. From that point until the Spartans’ first game, Simu spent four days a week on the field throwing.

“The first time I was more nervous,” said Simu, who had transferred from Sheridan Hills Christian. “I’m very competitive because I know in volleyball at least the setter has control over the whole court and if the setter isn’t physically and mentally there everything falls apart. I knew I would have to step up a lot and have to be a perfectionist, which I kind of already was.”

After all, football was a new sport for her. In middle school, she played soccer, basketball and volleyball. Her younger sister plays softball. Her older brother played football at Webber International University.

She and her family adopted one NFL player in particular as their favorite: Peyton Manning — a player her coaching staff believes she emulates.

What impresses coaches most about the First Team All-County quarterback is her calm demeanor. A self-proclaimed perfectionist, Simu is tough on herself after both wins and losses.

Whenever she gets stressed or frustrated, Simu picks up tufts of grass and inhales a large breath before letting them go, ready for the next play.

Though her teammates first looked at her strangely when she did it for the first time, they have since picked up the habit and dubbed it, “Picking Grass Therapy.”

“I’ve learned that sometime I have to relax because the team feeds off my energy,” Simu said. “If I’m freaking out and not a controlled frustration, it’s going to affect my team negatively.”

According to Graham, Simu’s thirst for knowledge sets her apart, making her one of the best quarterbacks he and his other coaches have seen. She is one of Broward County’s top returning players.

Simu often quizzes Graham on why the team throws on certain downs or why defenses line up the way they do. She became an avid viewer of game film, much like Manning.

“I think the biggest thing with her is mentally she’s fit to play the quarterback position,” Graham said. “She’s really cerebral when she plays. The mental side is when we really knew we had something. She really is a student of the game. She wants to get better in all phases of the game and wants to make the team better.”

DADE EXPANSION?

This past weekend, the Dolphins hosted their annual Girls’ High School Flag Football Jamboree at the Doctor’s Hospital Training Facility in Davie.

For the first time since the event’s inception in 1997, four Miami-Dade schools participated of the 28 teams.

Monsignor Pace, which advanced to last year’s first round play-in before losing to eventual state quarterfinalist Archbishop McCarthy, beat Mater Lakes 45-0 on Saturday.

Coach John M. Rodriguez had reached out to the Dolphins about Miami schools finally taking part in the BCAA-heavy event. The fifth-year coach hopes more programs sprout up in Miami. There are just eight flag football teams, all from private schools.

“I don’t know why more teams in Dade don’t play flag football,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve asked myself that same question. With as many good athletes as Dade County has, I’m sure it would be really popular and participation if the opportunity developed at these schools.”

The sport is relatively cheap with limited equipment: flags, a few footballs and T-shirts for jerseys. Referees must be hired and a bus is needed for minimal travel.

Other cities such as Jacksonville, Orlando and Tampa have numerous teams. In Palm Beach County, there is a league where 600 to 700 girls play the sport year-round.

“If you follow the evolution, you can see that every year more and more teams are playing as the state bracket expands,” Rodriguez said. “It’s growing all across the state. The schools here hold their own. The level of play down here is very, very good.”

Read more Broward High Schools stories from the Miami Herald

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