Flag Football: Girls flag football is heating up, and so is the third annual Summer Sizzler Tournament

By Nathan Dominitz/Special to Prep Sports Report | April 17, 2024

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Nick Grassi believes he created the first girls flag football club team in Georgia, which is a highly commendable accomplishment.

There was one drawback when the travel team, now called South Elite, was founded three years ago.

“There was nowhere to travel, nowhere to play because nobody else had one,” Grassi said recently.

That would soon change. A club team formed in the Metro Atlanta Area, and then another one in Columbus.

“Three more teams just popped up in Atlanta,” Grassi said. “This is really, really growing. I don’t see how by next year, it’s not full-fledged, just like any other travel sport, softball, soccer, all of it.”

As flag football has grown at the high school level since the Georgia High School Association sanctioned the varsity sport starting in 2020, the number of club teams has increased, he said.

Travel teams need places to play, and the Summer Sizzler Tournament will be one destination on June 8-9 at the Jennifer Ross Soccer Complex at 7221 Sallie Mood Drive in Savannah.

It’s the third year for the 7 vs. 7 flag football tournament, which was rebranded as the Summer Sizzler in its second edition. The event is run by Intercoastal Athletics, an organization which includes Calvary Day School assistant coaches Jonathan Newton and Grassi, who are longtime friends and men’s flag football players.

“The first year, we just kind of put it together out of the blue,” Grassi said. “Let’s see what we can get done. It ended up being good, and everybody’s wanted to come back since.”

Newton, who is a community coach like Grassi not on staff at Calvary, said the tournament grew from seven high school teams in 2021 to seven high school teams and three middle school squads in 2022, with more of both expected this summer.

Among those who have competed include Tag Team Elite of Atlanta, the Columbus Sharks (two teams), Long County and defending Summer Sizzler and GHSA Division I state champion Southeast Bulloch as well as Calvary and Savannah Christian.

Tournament registration is open to high school and middle schools, but Grassi has a clarification that there will be 18-under and 14-under divisions.

“To be technical, it was 14-under, and you have a lot of (high school) freshmen that are still 14,” Grassi said. “We wanted those young girls to be able to play, so we created a 14-U program. Three teams played in that (in 2022). Hopefully, that happens again this year, too. That’s the plan.”

Travel teams provide more opportunities for play and coaching to improve skills and gain experience. The big picture also could include the sport being introduced and nurtured in more middle schools and recreation leagues, which would serve as feeder programs to the high schools – just like other sports enjoy.

Newton said teaching the sport in middle school would “give the girls the skills and knowledge of the game to be able to contribute as freshmen coming into high school.

“That’s probably the hardest thing for girls playing football, they’ve never caught a football,” said Newton, who works for the Chatham County Parks & Recreation Department. “That’s one of the biggest challenges every year that we have. All of the new girls have to go through that learning curve of learning how to catch a football because they haven’t done it.”

Another challenge, Newton points out, is flag football season is wedged between the fall and winter sports. There’s overlap for girls who also participate in softball, volleyball, cross country or cheerleading as well as basketball.

“You’re juggling practice times and meetings,” he said. “It gets to be a little bit of a challenge, especially right at the beginning of the season.”

The Calvary Day School varsity team, which has had three different head coaches in four seasons, has benefitted from having assistant coaches in Grassi and Newton – technical experts, if you will – who have extensive flag football playing experience at regional and national levels as well as coaching experience.

Grassi, a Calvary Day alumnus, said he’s been playing the sport for 23 years and has taught tackle football to boys for about 25 years. The owner-operator of his family’s business, Grassi Roofing, greatly enjoys coaching high school players.

“High school sports, being with the kids, is way more rewarding when you’re on the inside than it looks from the outside,” Grassi said. “You see the smiles on these girls’ faces. It’s just really nice.”

The Cavaliers have had plenty to smile about, beginning in their first season when they won the inaugural GHSA Class A-5A state championship, played Dec. 28, 2020, at Georgia State University’s Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta.

Calvary advanced to the state semifinals in 2021 and the quarterfinals in the seasons since then. CDS went 17-3 and won its fourth consecutive region title last season in Division I.

Grassi shared his perspective on why flag football has been so popular with girls.

“I’m a football guy. I’ve played all sports. I’ve taught all sports. There’s something about football that is an ultimate team sport,” Grassi said. “You can’t have the best quarterback and not have someone who can catch the ball. You can’t have the best rusher without somebody who can catch an interception when the ball goes up. You can’t have one without the other. That’s what I think makes the sport great.

“The more execution that you can do, the better you can be at this sport,” he continued. “We have a saying at Calvary, and this goes big, if you can’t catch, if you can’t pull (flags), you can’t win.”

For more information or to register a team for the Summer Sizzler, contact Newton at 912-509-3295 or or visit The entry fee is $350 (early) or $450 (late), with teams guaranteed three games.


Photo Credit - Courtesy  Intercoastal Athletics


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