After a 1-2 start to the season, flag football team Service High has won seven of its last eight games, including a six-game winning streak.
One of the main reasons for their turnaround was the leadership and production of senior team captains Greta Helgeson and Zoe Witter.
“I think we have a really good bond this year,” Witter said. “The team chemistry has been really good and we had a tough start, but we just built on it and try to improve with every game.”
The two share a strong bond off the pitch and a deadly connection on the pitch. This report caused several defenses around the Cook Inlet conference headaches.
“I think we have a great girl group, everyone works hard and puts in effort and I think when some people miss certain days, others pick it up,” Helgeson said.
Helgeson is the Cougars’ starting quarterback and has thrown for 1,063 passing yards and 15 touchdowns on just three interceptions in 11 games.
“She knows all the games, she knows where everyone should go, that’s just her,” service coach Tony Maldonado said.
He praised Helgeson for her intelligence, solid arm strength, knowledge of routes and where to throw the ball on every play. He also said she had pocket presence, which is key in making the quick decisions. required.
In flag football, blockers are only allowed to get in the way of the opposing team’s rushers by standing and dragging in their path, so quarterbacks have to get the ball out quickly or give themselves more time to throw while scrambling.
“She’s a pocket passer,” Maldonado said. “We have deployments, but she can definitely sit in the pocket and watch. When feathered, you have to let it go in a second.
Helgeson holds a lot of team activities when players get together outside of school and practice, Maldonado said.
Witter recorded 810 all-purpose yards in 11 games, including 125 rushing, 510 receiving and 175 on seven punt returns. She also caught seven touchdown passes and is a force on the other side of the ball as well.
In the team’s 12-6 win over Betty Davis East on Tuesday, Witter recorded two interceptions, returning the first for 34 yards and the second for a 44-yard touchdown.
Helgeson said their connection has grown stronger over the years, in part because Witter is such a confident receiver.
“We get on well and I think we’re both working on what we need to work on,” Helgeson said.
Their coaches try to isolate Witter when she is in attack to understand what the opposing defense is doing and where to go with the ball and what are the best matchups.
“We’ll separate them and then go back under sometimes as well,” Maldonado said.
His two-steal game against the Thunderbirds brings his total to 14 for the season in 11 games, including three returned for defensive scores. She also has 29 flag pulls which are the flag football equivalent of tackles in traditional full-contact football.
Get into flag football
Witter is a football player by trade and chose flag football as her fall sport after trying and not liking cross-country running as a rookie.
“It wasn’t my thing, and then my friends just invited me to join flag in my sophomore year and that’s how it went,” she said.
Being allowed to use her hands in a sport took some getting used to for Witter, who credits her football background for the agility she displays on the open field.
“It was difficult to learn to catch the ball, but once you do, it’s a lot easier,” she said.
Helgeson, on the other hand, comes from a solid background in football and his family.
“I grew up around football,” Helgeson said. “My dad played soccer when he was in high school, my brother played soccer and went to college to play soccer, and I’ve been playing flag since I was seven.”
His older brother Henry graduated from the service in 2020 and while he was a two-sport star in football and basketball, he shone brightest on the gridiron.
As a senior, he was named Cook Inlet State and Conference Offensive Player of the Year, earned first-team all-state honors as a wide receiver. He now attends Valparaiso University, where he is a member of the soccer team and also plays catcher there.
Helgeson said football was her favorite sport and she was a huge Minnesota Vikings fan.
She was happy to have the opportunity to continue playing flag football when she arrived in high school and made the most of it.
“She has schools that are interested in her playing flag in college, so hopefully one of them will pick her up,” said Maldonado, who also coached her brother. “I think they will.”
He said Witter had several colleges recruiting her to play top-level football.
Biggest win to date
Perhaps the most significant victory for the Cougars in the first 11 games of the season was their 14-13 loss to rival Hillside South on Sept. 1.
“It was like the best feeling in the world,” Witter said.
The serve trailed by seven points with less than a minute left in the game and capped an 80-yard winning run with a touchdown pass from none other than Helgeson to his favorite target Witter.
“We had less than 10 seconds, it was fourth, we took our last time out and said ‘hit Zoe’,” Maldonado said. “(Helgeson) hit her and she took off and ran.”
The two connected again on the two-point conversion play as Helgeson tossed the ball over Witter’s outside shoulder for a successful attempt.
“They are our main rival,” Helgeson said. “Playing them and having a tight close game and then just taking over at the end for an 80-yard drive was really crazy and I think we all really built on that as a team.”