Stone opens flag football season Friday

Apr. 3—Tori Permenter, the always-energetic volleyball coach at Stone Memorial High School, has another thing to get excited about this spring. Permenter was selected to coach the school's flag football team and the Lady Panthers will open the season April 5 in Sparta.

"I feel a lot of excitement from the kids," said Permenter. "I think they're eager to get the season started and I probably started feeling that back during our early practices. I have been a strong advocate for emphasizing to them the importance of them being the first-ever flag football team at this school. We have an awesome opportunity."

Flag football is currently a club sport and not sanctioned by the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association. There are three teams in the league with Stone Memorial battling White County and Rhea County.

Friday's games will be played at White County High School with Rhea County opening the action against the Warriorettes at 4:30 p.m. Stone will then play Rhea County at 5:30 p.m., and close the evening at 6:30 p.m. with White County.

"I think early in our practices, we realized very quickly that we had some awesome athletes on our teams," Permenter said. "We also realized that some of the kids that may not play another sport have some big strengths they can provide within our program."

Girls flag football has some distinctive differences with the version of football played by boys in high school, Permenter said.

She said the field is 80 yards long with 10-yard end zones on each end.

There are only seven players on the field at a time and, as the name signifies, stopping players with the ball entails pulling flags attached to a belt they're wearing. Defensively, pass rushers must start five yards back from the line of scrimmage. The game is two 20-minute halves, with a running clock.

"Pulling a player's flag is an art form," Permenter said. "It is difficult to do, and some of the girls have surprised me with their ability to do that."

Permenter said she's been extremely pleased with the adjustment her players are making to learning the sport. She said she and her staff have been focusing on the basics and the Lady Panthers are picking things up quickly.

One things she said is taking some real adjustment to is ball carriers must raise the ball away from their bodies as defenders approach to grab their flags.

Otherwise, they would be penalize for flag guarding.

"In flag football, there is never a moment when the victory is out of reach," Permenter said. "You could score a touchdown, which is six points, then go for a 3-point conversion and you have just had a nine-point swing. With this sport, you have to expect the unexpected. I want our fans to come support these young women.

"With it being a new sport, we're having to make sure the kids know what's going on. I am trying to eliminate the penalties from them not understanding the rules. Overall, I think we just need them to know the plays, where to be, and the spatial aspect of things."

Permenter said she's having so much fun working with the flag football team. And, even though it is not a recognized varsity sport, yet, don't think that is keeping Permenter for making sure her team gives its best effort.

"I told the girls this is a club sport right now. It will probably be a varsity sport next year," the coach said. "However, the players know me. I am competitive and I want to win."