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    Esperanza girls flag football soars with blend of multi-sport athletes, and coach
    • October 10, 2023

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    The more diverse the student-athlete, the better.

    That’s one of the strongest themes that has catapulted Esperanza’s girls flag football team in the national rankings and to an Orange County-best 17-0 record.

    The Aztecs’ roster is comprised of several players from the school’s highly-successful softball and girls basketball programs, along with a few others from soccer, water polo and golf.

    Coach Jimmy Valverde is best-known as Esperanza girls basketball coach, though he also has coached baseball.

    “We’re having a blast,” he said recently of his flag football team. “We have girls from all over the place … and now they’re all friends because of football.”

    Esperanza enters the stretch drive of the inaugural flag football season in the CIF Southern Section with a 17-0 record and a No. 3 national rankings by MaxPreps. Newport Harbor and Woodbridge are No. 1 and No. 2, respectively.

    The Aztecs’ offense features quarterback Madi Lam, who has passed for more than 3,400 yards and 61 touchdowns. In the winter, the sophomore is a standout point guard for Valverde in basketball.

    Lam’s top target is senior Bailey Frazier, who has 87 catches for 951 yards and 11 TDs. She plays forward in basketball.

    Esperanza’s arsenal of receivers is deep. Frazier’s sister Ellie, a sophomore who also plays basketball, as 55 receptions for 772 yards and a team-high 13 touchdowns.

    Alexis Quon, another receiver who plays basketball, has tallied 47 receptions for 609 yards and 10 TDs.

    Senior Taylor Shumaker, an All-County center fielder in softball, has hauled in 10 touchdowns in 10 games. She is committed to Florida for softball.

    Shumaker is one of six softball players on the flag football team. Mia Sanchez, a standout pitcher in softball, is another one of the Aztecs’ quarterbacks.

    “I got athletes, man,” said Valverde, who is assisted by coaches Jim Lam and Chris Fitzgerald. “We’re a fun team to watch.”

    On defense, Bailey Frazier leads the team in flags pulled with 61. Sophomore Emma Gribben, who also plays water polo, is second with 58 and also has 40 catches for 428 yards and one score.

    Lam and Ellie Frazier have eight and seven interceptions, respectively. Shumaker and junior Daniela Vejar, another softball player, each have five sacks.

    Esperanza’s season continues Tuesday at St. Joseph (14-3). But like he has shown in basketball, Valverde isn’t all about the victories.

    “We work hard,” he said. “We’re going to win the right way, and we’re going to lose with some class.”

    The latter, however, hasn’t yet happened.

    Please send flag football news to Dan Albano at [email protected] or @ocvarsityguy on X and Instagram

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    ​ Orange County Register