Girls flag football explodes onto Bay Area high school sports scene

A referee checks the flag of California's Lauren Grgurina (10) after she scored a touchdown against San Ramon Valley in the second half at California High School in San Ramon, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. California won 7-0. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Hundreds of high school girls across the Bay Area are living out a dream.

From the far reaches of the East Bay to the Peninsula, teenagers in shorts, jerseys and in some cases intimidating eye-black are celebrating touchdowns and victories with smiles and high-fives during a groundbreaking flag football season.

“This has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl,” Dublin High senior Sydney Costello said.

Seven months after the California Interscholastic Federation unanimously gave its 10 sections approval to play flag football, the sport’s popularity has exceeded even optimistic expectations.

Some schools, including Pittsburg and Freedom in East Contra Costa County, cut dozens of players during tryouts because there were not enough spots.

At Menlo School in Atherton, Hall of Fame quarterback Steve Young is an assistant coach on a team that includes his two daughters.

“When this came up, I didn’t know if we would have any interest at all,” said Central Coast Section commissioner Dave Grissom, whose office oversees schools from San Francisco to King City. “It’s just taken off. I’m surprised, pleasantly surprised, that it’s taken off like this.”

Tackle football and flag football rules are obviously different, but the scene at California High in San Ramon on Tuesday night for a trio of girls games had all the pageantry and enthusiasm of Friday Night Lights.

Cheerleaders and dancers went through routines on the sidelines in front of bleachers filled with parents and students, some holding colorful signs with the number and name of their favorite players.

Those sights and almost all of the sounds are exactly like a tackle football game.

Spectators shouted familiar phrases such as “get them” and “that’s not a flag” at players and officials. The latest songs from artists such as Olivia Rodrigo blared during breaks in action, and a thunderous “TOUCHDOWN” boomed from the public address after every score. The only difference from tackle football is the lack of pads popping against each other.

“Our home games are already big and exciting, and it’s great to see how much support the sport is already getting,” said San Ramon Valley junior Brianna Shapiro, whose team was among the three playing at California.

The games last about an hour as the teams play with a running clock except for the last two minutes of each 20-minute half. The fields are 80 yards long and 40 yards wide.

There are seven players on the field for each team, down from 11 for tackle football. Players don’t wear pads or helmets, and there is no tackling and limited contact. Pulling a flag attached to a ball carrier’s waist means the play is over.

San Ramon Valley’s Kate Herrera (30) makes a catch for a first down against Dublin’s Adrianna Avelar (14) in the second half at California High School in San Ramon, Calif., on Tuesday, Sept. 12, 2023. San Ramon Valley won 12-0. (Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Menlo School’s Summer Young (8) stands with teammates for the National Anthem before their game against Sacred Heart Prep at Sacred Heart Prep …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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