PLANT CITY — Quet Shaw readies behind the center and scans the defense. She calls for the ball and rolls out to her right. Her receivers run down field as Shaw decides whether to run or pass.
As for what happens next, it's anybody's guess.
"She's an amazing athlete," Plant City flag football coach Michael Paul said. "As dangerous as they come."
Shaw is a huge reason the Raiders once again have state championship aspirations. Last season, the dynamic signal caller led the Raiders to the title game before falling to 41-16 to Tallahassee Leon. It was the only game Plant City lost. The Raiders again are undefeated heading into the final week of the regular season.
"I think the players learned a lot from last year," Paul said. "I think this team is a notch better."
But the players weren't the only ones who gained valuable experience during last year's runs. Flag football is a relatively new sport, and information on coaching techniques is scarce.
"As coaches, we picked up a great deal," Paul said. "When you started getting to the higher levels, most teams played a number of girls both ways to keep their top athletes on the field. That's one of the things we've implemented this year."
Florida launched flag football in 1998 with 17 schools fielding girls' teams. By 2003, the Florida High School Athletic Association recognized flag football as an interscholastic sport and began holding state championships. Plant City is in its third year of FHSAA-sanctioned competition.
"It's the fastest-growing girl's sports in the state," Paul said. "They're some very athletic players out here."
None more so than Shaw. Her blistering speed allows the senior quarterback to outrun nearly all defenders. Her strong, accurate arm keeps the defense from keying her running ability.
"If you don't chase her, (Shaw) will beat you with her feet," Newsome coach Kelly Townsend said. "And if you get too close, she'll throw it over your head."
Paul said Shaw is capable of launching a football 40 yards in the air and has a number of reliable targets to choose from including Collisha Walker and Kate Wicker. Shaw, who plays both sides of the ball, and Tic Bennett lead a speedy defense.
Shaw "is so quick and elusive with the ball," Paul said. "She does things that don't look possible."
From futbol to football
Townsend barely had to adjust her lineup when flag football season rolled around. Eight of the 18 girls on the flag football team at Newsome also played soccer for Townsend, including former All-County soccer players Kendall Graham and Ashley Evers.
"I don't think any of us take losing as personally as in soccer," Townsend said. "We definitely bounce back quicker after a loss in flag football."
That doesn't mean the soccer players for the Wolves and their coach don't approach flag football seriously.
"Each of us has a strong competitive desire and a drive to win," Townsend said. "But this is a different game for us that's just a lot of fun."
Congratulations are in order for East Bay senior Lauren Verbosky, who was one of 24 student athletes named this week to the FHSAA Academic All-State team. Verbosky, who has a 3.98 GPA and ranks first in her senior class of 364, won a $1,000 scholarship. Verbosky, who plans to attend the University of Florida, earned four varsity letters in track and soccer, three in cross country and two in volleyball. The 24 scholarship winners will be narrowed to two grand prize winners, one boy and one girl, of $3,000 scholarships.