TAMPA — Alonso watched tape and reviewed plays and practiced scenarios over and over again, getting ready for the Riverview Sharks, who came to visit Monday night for a Class 2A flag football region final.
Preparation paid big dividends, ultimately leading to a 26-19 victory for Alonso, the defending state champs.
Admittedly overmatched on the athletic scale, Alonso junior Jackie Bletsch said the Ravens had to prepare, “for everything Riverview was going to do.”
That’s why Bletsch said she was in position on the game’s second play, where because of scouting reports and game tapes reviewed, she knew how to read to the situation and picked off the ensuing pass.
“I saw how (Riverview quarterback Madysen Carrera) was turned and where the receivers were running and I knew what was going to happen,” Bletsch said. “When the ball left (Carrera’s hand) I said that ball is mine, I’m taking it.”
Bletsch snatched the interception and raced deep into Riverview territory.
Two plays later, Alonso quarterback Sara Rheintgen threw a 2-yard touchdown pass to senior Amanda Greaser — and the tone was set.
Yes, Riverview (14-2) consistently fought back, but Alonso (13-3) ultimately had the most answers, particularly Greaser, who hauled in touchdown receptions of 2, 3 and 40 yards and grabbed the game-sealing interception with less than a minute remaining.
“When we step onto the field we feel good because we feel like we are the most prepared team,” Greaser said. “We feel like we know what to expect and what we need to read. It feels so good to know that all that hard work paid off for so many of us.”
Alonso heroines? Where to begin?
How about center and rusher Idalys Acosta, who repeatedly wreaked havoc on Carrera’s rhythm with a furious rush, then turned around and made several key receptions, or Stephanie Sandborn, who made several key cathches, or Jade Rayburn, who played solidly on both sides of the ball.
“We’ve come so far,” Alonso coach Matt Hernandez said. “We graduated 16 players from last year’s (state championship team) and we had a lot of rebuilding to do. But we kept at it. And now, wow, what an accomplishment to come back and go back to the state finals. It’s so awesome.”