The flag football team’s comeback is cut short

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Courtesy of Spenser Hensel

Flag football coach and art teacher Spenser Hensel throws his hands up in excitement at a game this season. He’s disappointed that the season is over but knows that it was necessary. “No matter what, this team and this program will get back to it at some point,” he said. “Its disappointing but we will bounce back.”

This was the year.

Hillsborough art teacher and flag football coach Spenser Hensel spent the entire school year leading up to spring season recruiting girls for the flag football team. He knew Hillsborough hadn’t won a game in five years and that only two touchdowns were made in the entire season last year. But he also knew that he could turn the team around.

And he did. His recruiting paid off and 67 girls showed up to the interest meeting. At the preseason tournament at One Buc Place, the team won both games against Sickles and Armwood.

Courtesy of Arianna Simmons
Senior Arianna Simmons during their game against Sickles at One Bucs Place. The team’s season was cut short due to concerns about the coronavirus. “All I wanted to do was be on the field one last time,” she said.

They continued to win, and in the games that they lost they put up fight and were never far behind. “The team had so much pride in what they were doing,” Hensel said.

When the school week after spring break was canceled, then the month after that as well, Hensel and the team still had hope that they would be able to eventually continue their season. However, the Florida High School Athletic Association canceled spring sports across the state after Governor Ron Desantis canceled the rest of the semester.

“All I wanted to do was be on the field one last time before the season ended,” senior Arianna Simmons said. She joined the flag football team for the first time this year. “This year we actually looked like a real team,” she said. She, as well as the other three seniors on the team are disappointed that they won’t be able to play again.

“It hurts to see the seniors lose their last season,” Hensel said. “All four of them worked their butts off to support this team and make us better. We watched film and studied plays and formations and now they won’t get the chance to show what they can do.”

Hensel said he will miss seeing the girls at practice. He will also miss being out on the field with his family. His wife coaches alongside him, even at tryouts when she was 39 weeks pregnant. Their foster son would come to practices too, running routes and pulling flags. Simmons misses seeing what she called her second family. They still keep in contact however, and they’re planning on meeting up once the quarantine is over.

For next year, Hensel knows that they will get back on track again as the team continues to grow. Members of the team understand that the cancellation of the season was necessary to handle the pandemic. “Our underclassmen will always have next season, and our seniors can be happy that they helped start a new program,” Hensel said. “They laid the foundation for what is to come with this Hillsborough flag football team.”