Defending state champ Alonso takes district crown

The Ravens, who had to rebuild after winning Class 2A a year ago, top Steinbrenner 27-2.
Hugs all around after Alonso junior Jade Rayburn returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown during a 27-2 victory over Steinbrenner in a Class 2A flag football district final. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Hugs all around after Alonso junior Jade Rayburn returned an interception 35 yards for a touchdown during a 27-2 victory over Steinbrenner in a Class 2A flag football district final. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published April 24

TAMPA — Alonso won the Class 2A state flag football title last season and a few days later 11 of the 14 starters graduated.

“We had some rebuilding to do,” Alonso coach Matt Hernandez said. “We had a lot of things to straighten out.”

It took some work and adjusting, and a few lumps along the way, but a year later the Ravens appear to have everything straight indeed.

In a Class 2A district final Wednesday night, the Ravens looked darn near unbeatable in a 27-2 victory over visiting Steinbrenner.

Yes, there was a glaring miscue on the game’s first play — a hike over the head of quarterback Sara Rheintgen and into the end zone for a safety — but other than that the Ravens were stellar in every part of the game.

Rheintgen, for instance, was rock solid and never ruffled, throwing touchdown passes of 40 yards to Idalys Acosta (who redeemed herself after the poor opening hike), 24 yards to Amanda Greaser and 3 yards to Stephanie Sandborn.

Alonso junior Jade Rayburn turns a quick slant pass into a long gain. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Alonso junior Jade Rayburn turns a quick slant pass into a long gain. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)

“I didn’t really worry about the (safety on the first play),” said Rheintgen, who in her first year as a varsity starter has played particularly strong in the past four games, throwing for almost 1,200 combined yards. “I felt like, well, we didn’t get a chance to show everybody what we can do on that first drive. But we’ll have more chances and everything will be fine.”

On the defensive side, Alonso (9-3) was perhaps even more stout, making Steinbrenner scrap for every inch and never really allowing the Warriors to mount a serious threat.

Two of the times the Warriors seemed to have openings for breakaways, Greaser and Jade Rayburn were there to grab interceptions. Greaser grabbed her pick near the goal line and Rayburn returned hers 35 yards for a touchdown that put Alonso comfortable ahead, 20-2 in the second quarter.

“We’ve come a long way this season and now we’re playing great,” Acosta said. “We feel confident."

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