The Osborne High School flag football team is going to be represented on a national level at the 2021 Women’s National Football Conference IX Cup weekend, Aug. 6-8 in Dallas, Texas.

The first event scheduled for the weekend includes high school and college flag football tournaments, and the Lady Cardinals Dechea Branham, Arianna Hawkins and Aliyaha Heron have been invited to participate.

Branham ranked No. 1 in the state last year with 50 flag pulls. She ranked fourth in the state with 415 rushing yards and second in the state with 615 total yards. Heron compiled 167 total yards and a receiving touchdown. Defensively she was second on the team in passes defensed with nine and she recorded 12 flag pulls. Osborne coach Ormond Moore said that Hawkins is a great kicker and blocker at the center position.

He said his player’s athleticism contributes greatly to the success on the field. Branham and Heron both play basketball and run track when they are not on the football field. Haron also plays softball.

It is what’s different about them though, that Moore said he likes. He said Branham is the team’s do it all player.

“Dechea was a standout player. She could play any position that she wanted to, and even just this past summer in the summer league she was on fire,” Moore said. “She could run, she can jump, she can catch, she plays both sides of the ball, and she’s very good at the flag pulling, she reads offenses well, she gets interceptions and things because she learns how to read the quarterback’s eyes.”

Moore said Heron is a threat in the vertical game.

“Aliyaha is very tall and fast, and she has great hands,” he said. “She has a very high vertical, and when she’s back at the safety position, it’s very hard for anyone to get deep on her.”

Moore said Hawkins has the best work ethic and a high football IQ.

“Ariana is probably the hardest working person and she definitely refined her skills especially on kicking the ball, (even though) she’s more so used in a center role,” he said. “She’s great at blocking and also very good in the IQ part of the game by being able to pick up on things very well.”

Last year was the first year the Georgia High School Athletic Association recognized girls flag football as a state championship sport. Moore said assembling the team wasn’t too hard since the three girls are also good recruiters. He said he didn’t have to do a lot of recruiting since most of them recruited each other to play.

The girls should be ready for this tournament because they are scheduled to play in a flag football tournament in Columbus just over two weeks before this event. Moore said the girls’ love for the game is the reason why they can bounce back quickly.

“When they’re at practice or whenever they hit the field they’re just having fun, and they don’t put unnecessary pressure on themselves or anything,” Moore said. “Just the invite itself was enough for them to be excited because they’re not putting any unwanted pressure on themselves, they love playing.”

Moore also said this is good for them to accomplish another one of their goals, which is to grow the sport. Although he won’t be there with them, he said it is important to remember that they are pioneers of the game.

“When you guys have grown you’ll look back and say, ‘I was able to move this sport forward,’ and I think that’s one of the good parts about the WNFC and them having women being able to play football,” he said. “Just moving it forward for females to be able to be taken seriously in the football world, not just cheerleaders on the sidelines, so long as they’re having fun and they’re understanding that they are pioneers, and that alone makes them great and makes them all stars regardless of any stats.”

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