When Teagan Burrus took a knee to run the final seconds Saturday night at Beckman High, she and her Woodbridge teammates celebrated like they had just won the Super Bowl.
The Warriors avenged a 13-12 loss on their home court twelve days earlier by defeating Newport Harbor by an identical score win the first Beckman SoCal Flag Football Showcase in Irvine. Coach Mark Thompson’s unit may be the best in Orange County, and a big reason for that is the contributions of four veteran basketball players – Burrus, Hana Watanabe, Tori Zebko and Milan Heisdorf – who are looking forward to playing another sport together.
“In the last game against them we went for two [points] but they didn’t make it and this time it was the other way around – they made a two-pointer and missed,” said Burrus, who plays power forward and center on the basketball team. “Last year we didn’t have Hannah in football, but she enriches our team a lot. We’re all athletic, so we can play both sports.”
Both of Saturday’s semifinal games also came to an end: Woodbridge edged Orange Lutheran in overtime and Newport Harbor edged crosstown rival Corona del Mar by one point.
Burrus has outrebounded the Warriors with a record of 11-1. In Saturday’s championship game, she fired a 25-yard scoring pass to Zoey Ceman for the first points, then easily hit Ceman for a 50-yard touchdown and connected for a one-point conversion Zebko, who made a diving catch on the Feb. 17 pylon to give Woodbridge a 13-6 lead.
Newport Harbor tied the score at 6-6 on a 20-yard shot from Maia Helmar to Maddy Michel. With time running out in the second half, the Sailors went to the 10-yard line where Helmar found Kate Kubiak in the back of the end zone. The conversion attempt failed and the Sailors (9:1) were one point behind.
“I played in the Winter Bowl at Great Park in eighth grade [in Irvine] and I’ve been playing with the club since my sophomore year,” Burrus said. “I’m not the fastest, but I’ve always had one arm and I’ve always been a tomboy. I like being in control. Scoring a basket is great, but nothing beats the feeling of throwing a touchdown. Football requires a different level of IQ.”
Watanabe, the basketball team’s point guard, plays center on offense and cornerback on defense – a new position that she finds challenging. “I’m mad they scored against me,” she said.
She has been playing basketball for a lot longer, but is glad she joined the flag football team.
“It’s definitely different, but once I get better I think I’ll like it more,” Watanabe added. “Teagan and Milan convinced me and it is the best decision I have ever made. I showed up for the tryout and just tried to catch every ball. It’s a different game and requires different decision making.”
Watanabe believes being on the soccer team has strengthened the four girls’ bond.
“In basketball, Teagan is usually our post and it’s my job to get her the ball, whereas here I’m setting a pattern and she has to find me,” Watanabe said. “So our roles are reversed.”
A shooting guard used to shooting the nets in basketball, Zebko plays receiver and safety for her current squad and thinks catching a touchdown pass is even more exciting than sinking a game-winning three-pointer.
“Definitely the touchdown feels better, even though it’s a completely different atmosphere,” said Zebko, who has been playing basketball since she was 5 and started playing flag football at age 7 Matt Leinart Youth League. “In basketball, we’re in a gym and there are a lot more people cheering for us, whereas out here it’s almost just our parents watching. My family is big Michigan fans. I grew up playing football.”
Heisdorf, a winger on the basketball team and center back on the Woodbridge football team, plays receiver and safety. She is one of the captains of the flag football team and was one of 12 girls across the country selected to the 17U Youth National Team, which won the gold medal in a competition against teams from other countries over the summer.
“I’ve been playing rec league since second grade and my dad was my first coach. So I was happy when it was approved by the CIF,” said Heisdorf, who is headed to UC Irvine to play soccer after graduating from Woodbridge. “It’s hard to compare football and basketball, but in some ways football is more difficult. In basketball there is a little more room for error because if someone steals the ball, you can steal it again. A lot can be translated and football opens up spatial awareness even more.”