On Friday and Saturday, girls flag football teams from across the state of Florida had an opportunity to gear up for their regular season by participating in the "Buccaneers Preseason Classic" at the One Buccaneer Place in Tampa. Alonso, Apopka, Boca Ciega, Boone, Cypress Creek, Plant, Robinson, Seminole, Steinbrenner, St. Petersburg, Tarpon Springs, and Wharton high schools participated in two games each on the Bucs' practice fields outside of the team's training facilities.
There have been several Preseason Classic games held in the past, but this weekend's was the first hosted by the Buccaneers. For the past several months, the team has launched several campaigns through RED, the Buccaneers Women's Movement, with the aim of empowering women of all ages through Buccaneers football. RED's last event, Siege the Stadium, provided fans an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at Raymond James Stadium.
Flag football became a sport in Florida in 1998 and arrived in Tampa in 2006. There are roughly 250 teams across the state with more than 10,000 girls participating. For many of the girls at the Buccaneers Preseason Classic, an opportunity to play on the same field as Jameis Winston, Mike Evans and Gerald McCoy proved to be a memorable one.
On Friday, March 4 and Saturday, March 5, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers welcomed girls flag football teams from 12 local high schools to One Buccaneer Place to compete in the Buccaneers Preseason Classic.
"I think it legitimized a lot of what they do," said Matthew Hernandez, head coach of Alonso High School. "They were in awe of everything. It gave them the opportunity to experience something they never would have experienced any other time. This whole event has been great. Just for them to be able to hang out together and see things they've never seen before. It was something they'll all remember."
The event was sanctioned by the Florida High School Athletic Association. The games were used as a tune-up for a regular season, which begins on Monday
"Today, we were highlighting the beautiful sport of football with girls,"
said Darrell Taylor, the Bucs' Manager of Youth Outreach. "We're bringing forth equality and awareness of how great the game of football is and that girls and boys can be able to play, have fun and enjoy it."
Games began on Friday afternoon and wrapped up on Saturday. Along with competing on the practice fields, the girls were able to tour the Buccaneers' facilities and eat in the team's cafeteria.
"The biggest thing is the awareness," Taylor said. "The awareness of how great these girls are on this football field is the biggest thing."
Taylor's statement didn't go unsupported. Robinson High School is currently rated as the best team in the state while Apopka is the defending state champion.
To read more stories about the Buccaneers Women's Movement, RED, click HERE.