DON KETCHUM is a native of Phoenix. He was a sportswriter for The Arizona Republic/The Phoenix Gazette for nearly four decades. He covered high school sports on several occasions as well as the Arizona Diamondbacks, Arizona Cardinals and Arizona State sports. From 2008-14, he was a staff writer for, the web site of the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Flag football on the way to becoming a big deal

 Before you know it, it will be 2023, time for the Valley to host a big football event.


But no, it won’t be Super Bowl LVII at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, on Feb. 12.

So would you believe . . .

How about Xavier Prep’s participation for the first time in a club football season?

Now we’re talking.

The Gators also will play about eight or so games next spring, with home contests on Petznick Field’s artificial surface that is being refurbished after about a dozen years of wear and tear, with completion expected by the end of the summer.

It is another example of Xavier athletic director Sr. Lynn Winsor and her staff to come up with as many opportunities for her athletes to thrive and perhaps earn scholarships at the college level, a primary element of Title IX, a national push by administrators such as Winsor to bring greater notoriety to women’s sports.

Flag football will be listed as a club sport, as is another spring team at XCP, lacrosse. Winsor doesn’t believe it will have any bearing on the girls to succeed – they just want to win. The eventual goal, of course, is to be recognized as a full sport by the Arizona Interscholastic Association.

“Kids have played the sport here at Xavier in the past (in physical education classes) and it was well-received,’’ she said. “After the (flag) announcement was made, we got several calls from kids who told us how excited they are.’’

Teams will have a roster in the low 20s, with games featuring 7 on 7. That should give the coaches the necessary flexibility they need.

Winsor already has lined up a coach.

He is Mike Patterson, who for the past eight seasons has been an assistant coach and assistant defensive coordinator for neighboring Brophy Prep’s traditional football program, and will continue in that role.

Patterson’s daughter, Mikayla, will be a freshman at XCP this fall and is expected to play for the Gators.

Coach Patterson said he has worked with “linebackers, defensive backs, everything’’ over the years. It will be refreshing for him to be involved with a full game plan.

“Sister Lynn and I met and want to move the program ahead. I think we have the same mindset,’’ Patterson said. “I’d like to have a few fall camps going, and if the girls come out and they like it, maybe they can get the word around (to interest others). Xavier has had a lot of talented athletes over the years.’’

One thing that team members should be able to do is run. That is one of the primary aspects of the game, such as defending against an opponent and chasing them down and reaching out to grab the flags.

Individual expenditures perhaps are not as draining as they might be for some sports. The primary cost would be for cleats and mouth guards. The teams will wear uniforms, provide footballs and flags, with the possibility of smaller protective headgear, not full helmets like the boys wear.

So which schools would serve as opponents for the Gators?

The Chandler Unified School District had most of its schools involved last season, Chandler High, Chandler Hamilton, Chandler Basha, Gilbert Perry and Queen Creek Casteel, along with Arizona College Prep. Two Ahwatukee schools, Mountain Pointe and Desert Vista, should be in the mix, as well as some of the Gilbert district schools. Patterson said Chandler Seton Catholic could be a possibility.

The season will run from the first week of March through mid-April. That means a lot of figuring out which Xavier teams will have which days and times for practice and games at Petznick – flag football, softball and lacrosse. Patterson said it is possible his team could possibly work into a schedule that includes Saturdays.

Field upgrades would include new water cannons to keep the artificial turf cooler, LED lighting, safety padding on the poles, among other items.

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