Sophomore center Giuliana Klioze led Seabreeze with two touchdown receptions in the first half.
Clinging onto a five-point lead at the 10:13-mark in the fourth quarter, the Sandcrabs’ sophomore quarterback, Bailey McQuarrie, rifled a pass over the middle of the field.
It was McQuarrie’s first turnover of the day, giving the Buccaneers the chance to take the lead for the first time the entire game. With the district championship on the line, Sandcrabs coach Mike Fries huddled with his girls before the next drive.
“I looked at my girls, and I saw in their faces that they weren’t going to give up,” Fries said. “There’s times when you look at your athletes and they hang their heads and slump their shoulders. These girls didn’t do that. They rose to the occasion.”
Defender Taylor Nirschl answered the call.
On the first play of the drive, Nirschl cut in front of the receiver she was guarding and intercepted Buccaneers quarterback D’Zhariya Hopkins. After a 45-yard sprint, she was in the end zone. It was Nirschl’s third interception in the district playoffs.
The score knocked the wind out of the sails of the Buccaneers’ comeback. Seabreeze defeated Mainland 18-7 on the afternoon of Thursday, April 26, to claim the 1A-District 9 flag football title — the first postseason championship for Fries as a coach.
“The girls killed it,” said Fries, who had no previous football experience prior to taking over the Sandcrabs’ flag football program in 2017. “They went out, executed, never gave up and just played hard. They never took their foot off the gas.”
Seabreeze started the game leaning on the unlikeliest of heroes.
Sophomore Giuliana Klioze scored two touchdowns in the first half on passes from McQuarrie. Klioze, who shares the center position with teammate Hailey Tarlini, had only scored once the entire season.
“She had to hot hand,” Fries said. “I kind of leave it up to Bailey sometimes — who she wants as her center. It worked out well.”
But despite the play of Klioze and Nirschl, Fries was ecstatic with the lockdown defense of two-way player Christen Helem, who was selected to play in the East-West Flag Football All-Star Game this season.
“Talk about a monster,” Fries said. “Without her, Taylor doesn’t score. That play happened because they were so worried about Christen.”
The Sandcrabs host Jones High School on Thursday, May 3, in the regional semifinal.
“We have nothing to lose now,” Fries said. “These girls have worked hard this whole season, and they’re going to continue to work hard. We’re four games away from a state championship. I think we’re going to shock some people.”