“Baby, look at us now.”
That’s a slogan for the National Women’s Football Association.
Might as well be for the Fort Wayne Flash, too.
After going 4-4 in its first season in the league last year, the Flash seem to be primed to take another step in Year 2.
This isn’t about being a “novelty” anymore. It isn’t about women adjusting to the game, learning the plays, learning how to absorb a hit or deliver one.
It’s about expanding the playbook because there’s more knowledge. It’s about truly understanding all the film that’s watched, realizing the nuances of the game.
“We’ve got a really solid base,” running back Heather Anderson said. “We’ve brought in a lot of players who have experience, so we’re not new players anymore. That first year really got any of the newness out of it. We’re real players now. We’ve had the hits. We’ve had the injuries. We’ve done all of that. We’ve done everything we can now as a real team, and our goal this year is 1-0 each game and playoff-bound.
“I have no doubt that our team, the quality of the players we have, the excitement, the next level is well within our reach.”
Anderson’s play could go a long way to accomplishing a playoff berth.
She rushed for 929 yards and six touchdowns on 189 carries last season. Anderson, who describes herself as a “right-through-the-middle” type of runner, said she’d like to reach 1,000 yards.
Considering the team has a first-year quarterback, Laura Kerr, Anderson’s continued production will be all the more important.
Last season, the Flash rushed 340 times. It passed only 79.
Now add Kerr to the mix.
She’s a five-year veteran of football but last year she played linebacker and fullback for Fort Wayne.
Coach Scott Floyd said he likes Kerr’s leadership and athletic ability. Experience is something that will have to come.
“We don’t want to put our new quarterback in a position where she’ll have to win or lose a ballgame,” Floyd said. “It’s important that our running game steps up and keeps us in manageable down and distances. If we’re able to do that, our quarterback is going to be fine. I’ve got no worries about her.”
Perhaps an expanded playbook will help the rushing game produce even more.
The team used multiple formations last season and will keep the variety this season but added more options out of each formation.
“We should be a lot more exciting to watch and a lot tougher for defenses to pick up on what we’re doing,” Floyd said.
More efficiency on offense would only help the defense, a unit that was solid last season.
Fort Wayne held opponents to only 96 yards per game and had three shutouts, including two to close the season. It allowed two touchdowns or fewer in all but one game.
Most of the key players on that side of the ball return, too.
Defensive end Heidi Wright was second on the team with 30 tackles last season, and Floyd said she worked hard in the offseason and should be “fun to watch.” Another player to watch: linebacker Trisha Morgan.
What Floyd likes the most out of his unit, though, is the unselfish play.
“They do their responsibility and allow their teammates to make plays,” he said. “It seemed like every game we had a different leading tackler or someone else leading in passes defended or quarterback hurries.
“It was just a really unselfish group that understood the team concept over there.”