Every season has its wins and tough losses, but the Archbishop McCarthy flag football team suffered one loss this season that goes beyond anything that happens on the field.
Catherine Ann Kohrt, a teacher at Archbishop McCarthy, died after battling brain cancer for more than a year. Many of the girls on the team were close to her, especially the 15 seniors that had her for social justice the previous year, her final one teaching at McCarthy.
The Mavericks will keep her in their thoughts when they take the field for a state quarterfinal matchup with Delray Beach Atlantic on Friday in Tallahassee’s Gene Cox Stadium.
“We really want to play for her because we know she’d be proud of us, but we’re really glad that we made it this far,” says quarterback Melissa Jara, one of the seniors who was a student of Kohrt’s as a junior. “We do it for her — and for ourselves and our coaches.”
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Kohrt’s fight with cancer inspires McCarthy to fight on the field.
“She fought a hard battle, and she hit it head-on and she lost, but she fought,” coach Chris Cormier says. “That’s something that our players are really inspired by. Whether you win or lose, you have to fight.”
On a much smaller scale, the Mavericks are dealing with another issue: McCarthy has its prom scheduled for Saturday night.
With quarterfinals on Friday and semifinals/finals on Saturday, advancing past Atlantic into the semifinals would probably mean the girls, who bussed to Tallahassee on Thursday, would miss prom.
Cormier had a strong message to his team regarding that potential distraction.
“I told the girls, ‘If you get on that bus, you want to go all the way to win it. If there’s any doubt that you want to try and make prom, then you shouldn’t get on that bus,’” he says. “We’ll know that the people that we came to Tallahassee with are the ones that made up their mind.”
And with that, the team boarded the bus.
“It’s a difficult situation. It’s extremely bittersweet, but us seniors have worked four years to get to this point, so we’re going to give it our all and if we don’t go to prom we’ll have one when we get back,” Jara says.
If the Mavericks do advance to that semifinal round, they would face back-to-back champion Loxahatchee Seminole Ridge.
But first, it’s their battle with Atlantic, which McCarthy lost a contested regular-season bout against 13-12. The close score in their first meeting gives the Mavericks confidence they can compete and advance.
Cormier will put the game in the hands of Jara, who has been stellar since filling in for starting quarterback Toni Mendoza (torn ACL).
“She’s the main leader on our team,” Cormier says. “We put her in situations where we run the option so that she makes the decision, and you need a really smart person, someone that can think on their feet and make plays. She can do that. She’s the main reason we are where we are.”
McCarthy got to this point by first taking districts over Stranahan, then winning in a 24-0 rout of Everglades, and finally defeating a tough Hialeah Mater Academy team 20-14 in overtime.
With the inspiration of playing for their beloved teacher, the Mavericks will look to win their first flag football state championship.