JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Mykala Maddox had a front row seat to one of the most dominant flag football seasons in area history.
She flicked touchdown passes for Fleming Island with ease, then turned around and provided a jolt on the defensive side of the ball. Next up is a spot on a national champion junior college program, and perhaps a footnote one day as one of the best to come out of the area.
Maddox becomes the first-ever All-News4JAX flag football player of the year, a fitting honor for the area’s leading star in a sport that continues to boom. Maddox carried the Golden Eagles to the Class 2A state championship game from her quarterback position and left a legacy of success in the process.
Even though the Golden Eagles came a win short of a perfect season, Maddox closed the book on a career that shined while the sport boomed in popularity around her.
She’s been Fleming’s top playmaker since her freshman year, a season that ended prematurely under the strain of the pandemic.
The last two years, Maddox has piloted the area’s best program to dominant seasons and seen one of the most prominent emerging sports in the country for female athletes continue to flourish locally.
“It was pretty awesome,” Maddox said. “To know that you’re changing the game and you’re enjoying it while you’re playing it. It was pretty cool.”
Just how much has flag boomed?
In 1998-99, there were two schools in Florida and a total of 54 female athletes who competed in the sport, according to participation numbers from the National Federation of High School Associations. In the most recent data available, that number had grown to 361 schools and 9,066 athletes in 2022-23.
Maddox said that the growth is overdue because more and more female athletes are being exposed to just how exciting the sport is to compete in. It’s typically a second or a third sport for female athletes, and a great way to stay engaged in a team sport. With college programs on the NAIA and Juco level beginning to add the sport to their rosters, that should allow more players who just dabble in flag to focus on it after high school.
“I’m not that surprised. Because this [sport] is pretty cool, it’s pretty fun to play,” she said. “And I know most girls will like it, but most girls don’t know about it. So, I’m glad it’s spreading and growing.”
The NFL and Nike have been major proponents of pushing the sport into the mainstream. In 2021, they partnered to provide $100,000 donations to state athletic associations that have launched flag football. Florida was the first state to receive the funds. The Jaguars and Buccaneers have been big proponents of trying to help build the sport at the grassroots level in Florida.
For Maddox and Fleming, they hit their peak together this season. The Golden Eagles were a wrecking ball in the regular season, outscoring their opponents 278-0.
Maddox was a sniper after the snap, passing for 2,097 yards and 38 touchdowns, 18 of those to fellow All-News4JAX selection London Jenkins. She rushed for 1,130 yards and 28 touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Maddox had 24 flag pulls and seven interceptions. More than individual stats, Maddox said the experience was the best part.
She’ll continue her flag career at Florida Gateway College in Lake City. The Timberwolves won the NJCAA national championship this season. Maddox said that seeing younger programs like Bradford and Yulee develop into solid schools relatively early in their playing days provides more evidence that flag is here to stay.
“Flag football in this area, to me, is really popular and I love that because it’s tough competition. This season it was pretty great,” Maddox said. “We had a great season. Undefeated. Didn’t get scored on in the regular season. Then districts, [we] got scored on, but it happens. So, yeah, it was it was pretty good season.”
All-News4JAX flag football team
Player, School, Class, Notable
Courtney Brown, Stanton, Sr.
Versatile player for the Blue Devils who held down the receiver and linebacker positions. Helped lead Stanton to district championship.
Nichelle Brown, Bradford, Jr.
Video game numbers at receiver (112 catches, 1,969 yards, 29 TDs). Rushed for 909 yards and 14 TDs. On defense she had 24 flag pulls and 11 interceptions. Bradford was 16-0 with her in the lineup and 0-1 without her in it.
Jasmine Cross, Fletcher, So.
Passed for 1,980 yards, 32 TDs for the 10-5 Senators. Added 18 rushing touchdowns. The first area player to lead a scoring drive on Fleming Island this season, getting them on the scoreboard in the district tournament.
Gaby Fajardo, Stanton, Sr.
Receiver and linebacker who did a little bit of everything for a very talented Blue Devils squad.
Ar’Nayshia Griffin, Bradford, Fr.
Breakout first season for the QB and defensive back. Passed for 3,511 yards, 44 TDs. Rushed for 1,058 yards, 16 TDs. On the defensive side of the ball, she picked off 23 passes and had 15 flag pulls.
Tremesha Harris, White, Sr.
The face of the Commanders this season, she had 1,487 receiving yards, 25 TDs for one of the area’s top teams. Led Commanders with 7 interceptions. Has signed with Florida Gateway College.
Brianna Henderson, White, Sr.
Had 806 receiving yards on 57 catches, 15 TDs. Added 79 tackles, 13 sacks, 5 INTs from her linebacker position.
Ansley Hicks, Paxon, Jr.
QB and safety was 146 of 272 passing for 1,3444 yards and 34 TDs. Rushed for 1,055 yards and 8 TDs. From her safety spot on defense she added 21 flag pulls and 4 INTs.
Ajiyah Jackson, Bradford, Sr.
Dominant defensive rusher for the Tornadoes. Had 54 flag pulls and 35 sacks to lead one of the area’s top defensive teams.
London Jenkins, Fleming Island, Jr.
Excellent athlete who was a force on defense (team-best 8 INTs) and the Golden Eagles’ top big play threat for QB Mykala Maddox. Had 59 catches for 950 yards, 18 TDs.
Mykala Maddox, Fleming Island, Sr.
Inaugural All-News4JAX player of the year. Passed for 2,097 yards, 38 TDs. Rushed for 1,130 yards and 28 TDs. Added 24 tackles, 7 INTs from her defensive position. Led Golden Eagles to Class 2A state runner-up spot. Has signed with Florida Gateway College.
Endia Maxwell, White, Sr.
Quarterback was 240 for 385 passing for 2,886 yards and 40 TDs. Added a rushing TD for the 17-2 Commanders.
Gabi Musa, Fleming Island, Jr.
The linebacker was the leading defensive player for the Golden Eagles. Team-best 73 flag pulls. Picked off 6 passes and had 4 sacks. Caught 15 passes and 4 TDs.
Anara Peterson, Mandarin, Jr.
Had 74 flag pulls, 4 interceptions from her linebacker spot. Added 302 rushing yards, 4 TDs out of the backfield.
Gaby Rourke, Atlantic Coast, Jr.
Versatile star is one of the best all-around athletes in the area. Played in the secondary and receiver. Had 13 INTs on defense ad caught 42 passes for 696 yards, 9 TDs. Was All-News4JAX first-team soccer selection in the winter.
Taniah Warner, Paxon, Sr.
Quick rusher had 33 sacks, forced three safeties. Third on the Golden Eagles with 55 flag pulls.
Player, School, Class
Mia Bella-Gutierrez, Ridgeview, Sr.
Ameerah Evans, Ridgeview, Sr.
Charlie Evoniuk, Stanton, Sr.
Kendall Gagnon, Keystone Heights, Sr.
Desiree Hall, Middleburg, Jr.
Lexi Haile, Ridgeview,
Annalee Harbison, Clay, Sr.
Dakota Hills, Clay, Sr.
Reese Holman, Paxon, Fr.
Ella Hutchins, Keystone Heights, Jr.
Cheyenne Jenkins, Middleburg, Jr.
Shelby McClain, Clay, Jr.
Paetyn Miller, Ridgeview, Sr.
Ashley Purdy, Sandalwood, Jr.
Amaya Rederick, Raines, Sr.
Ezira Ward, Riverside, So.