PACE — A new sports team at Pace High takes the field in fewer than two weeks: the Girls Flag Football Team. Head coach Chris Raggard has had tryouts and announced the varsity and junior varsity squads.

"The first game is on Feb. 26 against Navarre," Raggard said to 24 players and their parents at a team meeting before the first practice. According to Raggard, there is still a lot of work to do with funding the new sport and getting many first-time players to learn the game.

Raggard told the gathering that they had raised $15,000 of the estimated $21,000 it will take to complete the first season. Raggard attributed the cost to the sport's newness.

"It's a first-time sport," Raggard said. "We have to buy everything new." The school board provided $3,000 and Pace High School gave $2,000, according to Raggard.

"We start out with the same amounts (from school and school board) that all new sports start with, boys or girls," Raggard said. The team has planned many fundraising events through the season. Those interested in sponsoring the team, donating or helping their fundraising efforts can learn more at the Pace High School webpage,

The next steps include conditioning the team and teaching the positions and plays Raggard told those in attendance. This season the Patriots will not play for district titles or state playoffs. That will happen next year. This year the Pace team is considered an independent, Raggard said. The Patriots will play other local teams and play in tournaments this season.

Seniors will graduate without a shot at playoffs because of this rule. So Raggard plans to make their April 11 senior night a special event for them.

Raggard is not new to coaching. He coached girls basketball and boys football for five years at other schools before becoming the flag football coach at Pace. His assistant coaches are Bill Jernigan and Cameron Bozeman.

Most of the first practice was a concentrated effort on teaching the positions on the field for flag football and learning some plays. Raggard said he selected players for certain positions based on talking to them, reviewing all their grades and physical conditioning.

The players all have their reasons for playing. Freshman Autumn Hinson said, "I like to stay active." Her cousin Brooklynn Smithey is a sophomore and said she went out for the team because she likes to watch football.

Sara Zaghloul, a senior, played powder-puff football, soccer, softball, ran track and was on the weightlifting team before trying flag football. She made the varsity team.

"I hope we have a really good season," Zaghloul said.