Ashely Chu began preparing for her role as South Forsyth's flag football quarterback long before she ever stepped on a football field.
As a center fielder with the War Eagles' softball team, whenever she positioned her fellow outfielders before the next at-bat, or whenever she threw out a runner at home plate, she was also developing the skills that all good quarterbacks possess.
“Being a center fielder means just being a leader in the outfield," Chu said. "You have to tell people to step back if a big hitter is coming up or move forward if a slapper is coming up. It’s kind of like football where you call out the plays. Sometimes you make little changes to those plays, just to adjust to the other team’s defense. I think it’s pretty similar.”
Chu was a leader in the backfield, engineering South's offense and helping the War Eagles to a Region 6-7A championship and an appearance in the Class 7A Sweet 16. Chu is the Forsyth County News Player of the Year in flag football.
Chu played football as a child, but never in an organized capacity. However, when the Georgia High School Association added flag football in 2019, Chu was not completely sold.
“At first, I was a little skeptical because I didn’t see the appeal to it," Chu said. "Then Coach [Leanne] Brooks brought me in and it just kind of started from there. I had the greatest three years of my life playing this sport.”
Chu started as a wide receiver, but once the coaching staff saw her throw, they could tell she was a natural quarterback.
“I’m a center fielder, so throwing stuff very far is kind of my thing,” Chu said with a laugh.
Even more impressive was Chu's ability to make defenders miss with the ball in her hands.
Chu was often the quickest player on the field, and her ability to run the option with players such as Josie Crossman added another wrinkle to the War Eagles' offense.
“I got to know some of my signature jukes, like the three main ones that I pretty much use," Chu said. "Then I’ve been lucky enough to be a little bit speedier than some other girls, so I’d like to thank my genes.”
The turnaround from softball to flag football was so quick that South's flag football team was already two games into the season by the time Chu wrapped up the softball season.
Chu was also one of the top softball players in the entire county, especially on defense where she finished her senior season with a perfect fielding percentage.
“Just the amount of practice that goes into being efficient with the ball; where to go, where to be, how to catch it, where to set up," Chu said. "It’s a whole process that I have gradually honed as my years have gone on in this program. The outfield coach, Coach [Adam] Baldwin, has been a great deal of help for me, too. No errors – I think that was just lucky.”
With success on the football field and softball field, would Chu rather score a touchdown or hit a home run?
“Because softball was my first sport, I’d say hitting a home run would feel better," Chu admitted. "But getting a touchdown is still very, very good, especially if you connect one with one of your wide receivers. The feeling between the both of you, and the excitement, is very nice, whereas hitting a home run is just you.”
South captured a region championship last month with a 19-13 win over West Forsyth, with Chu throwing the game-winning touchdown to Drew Necaise.
The War Eagles won in the first round of the Class 7A playoffs against Peachtree Ridge, 18-0, before falling to Blessed Trinity 19-6 in the second round.
South's march to the Class 7A Final Four last season is something Chu will always remember, especially the War Eagles' 18-12 win over top-seeded Sequoyah.
“A compilation of everything, for sure, but there’s really one main moment that really sticks with me to this day, and that’s beating Sequoyah last year," Chu said. "You know, everybody thought of us as the underdogs going into the playoff season because we didn’t really perform the best in the beginning. I feel like we really honed our skills and got better as the season went on, and the coaches and the teammates really began to mesh more. Sequoyah was really the breaking point. I feel like that was our best game that we had and it allowed us to go to the top eight and then the Final Four.”