On a beautiful Saturday morning in mid-September, the Cherry Creek School District hosted more than 500 student athletes for one of the first-ever girls flag football jamborees. The event, held Sept. 17 at the Stutler Bowl and the Cherry Creek High School practice field, featured more than 20 teams made up of young women from high schools in the Cherry Creek School District, Denver Public Schools, and Jefferson County Public Schools. The event was part of a pilot program launched earlier this year by the Denver Broncos Charities organization.
“The Denver Broncos are thrilled to have this opportunity to help bring girls high school flag to 25 high schools throughout the Denver Metro Area,” said Bobby Mestas, Broncos Director of Youth & High School Football, in a statement posted on the team’s website. “The districts, the schools and the Colorado High School Activities Association have been tremendous partners thus far and we’re excited to offer the sport of football to more than 500 female student athletes this fall.”
Those student athletes are excited to have the opportunity to play.
“This is super great,” said Grandview High School senior Mattea Dolan, after a game against Denver West. “We have another opportunity to represent ourselves, show how tough we can be and that we can keep up with the boys. Flipping the roles a little bit, getting to see what we can do for a change.”
Her Wolves teammate, Junior Linnea Cannon, she’s not just pulling for her team, but for all the schools and the clubs involved to have success.
“Obviously, we’re going to compete against the other teams, but we’re happy for everybody,” Cannon said. “This is brand new and we’re excited. We’re here for it and we’re ready.”
“It’s a great opportunity for the young ladies to get involved and to compete,” said Larry Bull, Director of Athletics and Activities for Cherry Creek Schools. “Flag football is a great way to do that. As you can see today, there are many teams out here, some of them with 20-plus players, so there are a lot of students participating and that’s awesome.”
One of the games featured district rivals Smoky Hill and Cherry Creek. Coaches and players alike said the program is a work in progress, but the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive.
“I think it’s pretty fun playing the game,” said Smoky Hill sophomore Yamoni Perez. “I think it’s really nice to be a girl and to play flag football in a league. I was really surprised and really happy that they’re letting us do this.”
“It’s so exciting. I’m really enjoying doing this so much,” said Cherry Creek junior Abigail Douglas. “It’s so fun to be with a team and to play football. I think we have a great dynamic. It’s so exciting to be able to see big plays. Our team is doing well,” she added.
“We’re starting off with the basics,” said Cherry Creek Coach David Knoeckel. “Every single practice we work on the basics. Catching, throwing, flag pulling, the basics of defense, all that good stuff. The girls are motivated. They’re asking us for extra practices, we’re implementing more plays as often as we can, because they want to learn and they’re picking it up quickly.”
Director Bull said part of the challenge was making sure existing high school sports were not adversely affected by the new program.
“We need to thank the coaches that are out here,” he said. “One of the things we did not want to do was take coaches from other sports. But fortunately, new coaches stepped up and you can see the excitement from the coaches, the kids, and the parents.”
Contributed by Dennis Dolan, sports information specialist, Cherry Creek Schools.