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Exhibition games at NFL Experience spotlight area flag football programs

Four Tampa Bay area high schools took the field Wednesday on National Girls & Women in Sports Day.
Published Feb. 4
Updated Feb. 4

TAMPA — Robinson High flag football coach Josh Saunders said he couldn’t have scripted a better week.

On Tuesday, his team (along with Alonso) was highlighted in a national ad that promoted a new initiative by Nike and the NFL to grow girls flag football across the country through a $5 million grant.

On Wednesday, his team played two exhibition games against Newsome and Alonso to celebrate National Girls & Women in Sports Day at the NFL Experience, an interactive football-theme park that is part of the buildup to Super Bowl 55.

“I can’t imagine what it would be if this isn’t as good as it gets,” Saunders chuckled after the team’s first game.

Robinson, Newsome, Alonso and Lennard represented the Tampa Bay area in two 6-on-6 exhibition games in front of about 250 people on the modified Play Football Field at Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park in Tampa.

Roman Oben, the NFL Vice President of Youth and High School Football, served as the announcer. The former NFL tackle, who played on the Bucs’ Super Bowl 37 championship team, said he was impressed with the competitiveness he saw from the student-athletes, who were supposed to be playing simply for fun.

“Once that ball snaps, they get really competitive,” Oben said. “I think it’s all great, and I’m really excited to see where we’re going to go with this over the next few years.”

Oben also spoke highly of the new Nike-NFL initiative, saying the money could really make a difference in how the sport develops in the years to come.

“If this is the peak,” Oben said, “then we have to raise the bar.”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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