Every year since 1997, Broward County schools compete in the Miami Dolphins’ annual Girls’ High School Flag Football Jamboree at the Doctor’s Hospital Training Facility in Davie.
In March, four Miami-Dade teams, including Monsignor Pace, participated for the first time. Coach John M. Rodriguez’s squad didn’t play until the last session, which gave he and his assistants ample time to watch the other games.
Toward the end of the day, they all agreed on one thing: “We looked at each other and said, ‘We could hang and play with any of those teams,’ ” Rodriguez said.
Two months later, the Spartans (16-0) face Delray Beach Atlantic at 8:30 p.m. Friday at Osceola High School in Kissimmee in the FHSAA state quarterfinals.
It marks the furthest any Miami-Dade program has reached in the flag football postseason.
What’s surprising for Pace is that Rodriguez considered it to be a rebuilding year after six significant players graduated from a talented 2012 team. That squad lost 14-7 in four overtimes to Archbishop McCarthy in the first-round play-in.
“We started this season not knowing how good we were going to be because we had a lot of players who hadn’t played a lot in the past,” Rodriguez said. “We were able to add on some incoming freshmen that turned out to be phenomenal and seniors who contributed significantly to our success.”
The Spartans have gotten it done with a remarkable point differential — just 20 points allowed and more than 500 scored.
Sophomore quarterback Sabrina Cabrera, who has compiled 60 total touchdowns, decided to try out for the team last year when she enjoyed powder puff football during homecoming weekend.
“Last year’s quarterback told me to believe in myself, God, let everything happen, trust my gut,” Cabrera said. “It has stayed with me and helped me.”
Having several outlets to look for on the field, including freshman Destiny Wilson and senior Brandi Harrington, has also eased Cabrera into her role.
On defense, senior linebacker Ja’Torria Washington said the unit sets a goal of shutting out each opponent and preventing it from reaching its own 40-yard line.
“The reason we’re able to click so well is they all vibe off each other,” senior cornerback Aislinn Jolicoeur said of the offense. “That vibes off the defense. The offense might not be having a great game and the defense has to pick it up and then help us out. It’s a whole team effort.”
During the first three rounds of the playoffs, the Spartans have beaten Dade’s Mater Academy 19-0 and Broward’s Everglades 13-0 and Stranahan 26-7.
Despite a perfect record, Rodriguez’s players heard from friends outside the county that Dade teams had earned a reputation for competing in a weak area. Two steps from a state title, Pace hopes to continue to change that perception.
“Everyone always remembers the first time, not the second time,” Washington said. “The first person is the one to kick-start it making history. If we do all of our jobs as players and as a team, we’ll be a team of history, come back and represent Miami and Monsignor Pace.”
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