Some of the area's better girls flag football squads will be in town for a tournament this weekend. And they may all end up battling for second place.
Plant City is the site for a nine-team tourney where the undoubted star attraction is a team from Loxahatchee.
"Seminole Ridge is a monster," said Larry Langston, offensive coordinator for Plant City High's flag football team and the organizer of the Plant City Flag Football Invitational.
Although it's not an officially sanctioned prep event, the reality is most of the participants play for the high schools their team represents. Seminole Ridge High, from inland Palm Beach County, just so happens to have won the state title in May. Seminole Ridge also won the 2010 title.
But it's not like the rest of the field is chopped liver. Robinson, which reached the state quarterfinals before losing to Dr. Phillips High this year, will take part. So will another quarterfinalist, Jacksonville Mandarin.
Alonso — the team that narrowly lost in overtime for the 2011 championship — will participate along with three other county squads, Bloomingale, East Bay and Plant. Dixie Hollins rounds out the field, the largest in the tournament's four-year history.
Of the nine teams, six of those schools have made the flag football playoffs every year of their program's existence.
"We were hoping for at least 10 but this will be our best field anyway," Langston said, pointing to the fact he was able to draw Seminole Ridge and Mandarin.
The sparkling new fields of the Ellis-Methvin Sports Complex, across from Otis M. Andrews Park, will host the action. Pool play is scheduled for Saturday morning with championship bracket play on Sunday.
Langston, as the person who set up the teams into their groups of three for pool play, could have drawn up an easy route for Plant City.
Instead he put his team into the same group as Seminole Ridge.
Traditionally Plant City has fared poorly in the event but this year Langston says there has been a difference in approach.
"It was kind of a hodgepodge, some former players, some junior varsity girls. This year it's been most of the girls who will be on the team next year," he said. "It's important for our players' benefit, if nothing else to establish what we have for next season."
Avery Brown will get her first action at quarterback. She was the freshman receiver and favorite target of quarterback Catie Evans, who just graduated.
Langston's organization, the Tampa Bay Flag Football Association, is putting on the event. He hopes it goes well but also will pay close attention to a couple of other non-sports events of note going on this weekend.
Saturday is the birthday party for his 4-year-old daughter Gabby, and Sunday he and his wife, Dina, celebrate their sixth anniversary.
"The tournament's always been the same weekend. My wife is sports-savvy. I've got a great wife," Langston said.
Darek Sharp can be reached at [email protected]