Friday night football isn’t just for the boys.
Efforts are under way to bring a girls flag football league of sorts to The News-Herald area this spring through the Northeast Ohio Flag Football Association.
According to Bob Berwald of NEOFlag, four area high school teams have committed to the mini-league of, with Mentor, Kirtland, Perry and a team comprised of Lake Catholic and NDCL girls.
Others such as West Geauga and Grand Valley are also in the mix and could have teams playing this spring. Mentor could have two teams.
Berwald said he hopes to have at minimum 6-to-8 teams playing high school girls flag football in a schedule that will begin in late March and run through the end of April.
A five-to-six game schedule is anticipated for the teams that will be playing five-on-five flag football on fields 46 yards-by-25 yards.
NEOFlag is boosted by the Cleveland Browns, who are footing the bill for the uniforms.
“When I brought this up to the Browns that it was something I as looking to do in the spring, they were all about it,” Berwald said. “There’s a big push for this nationally. There are six or seven states that actually have high school girls flag football as a recognized sport, and some colleges even give out scholarships for flag football.
“I think this is going to catch on.”
There’s certainly some star power that goes along with the local entries thus far.
Kirtland’s team is being coached by Tiger LaVerde, coach of the six-time state champion Kirtland Hornets football team.
Perry’s team is being coached by longtime Pirates coach Matt Rosati, who stepped down after this past season.
Additionally, Berwald is coaching Mentor’s team. He is the Cardinals’ defensive line coach.
All have daughters who will be involved in the girls flag league.
“My daughters play soccer and basketball, and they’ve watched a lot of football,” said LaVerde of daughters Leah and Sophia. “When (Rosati) called me and asked me, I asked my daughters and immediately they said yes. It was a done deal. There was no recruiting that needed to be done.”
The same glowing response came to Rosati at Perry, whose daughter Nikki is going to help as an assistant coach.
“We haven’t had sign-ups yet, but word has spread and a lot of girls have come up to me interested,” Rosati said. “It’s going to be fun, believe me. We’ll be no-huddle going all RPO (run-pass option). You can do a lot of neat things with this.”
Rosati is a big proponent of flag football in general, calling it a great stepping stone from a young age for prospective football players.
“I love flag football,” he said. “It’s essential to establishing your youth program. If you start off by playing flag football, you’re gonna be in pretty darn good shape.”
Berwald said he is looking forward to coaching his daughters, Breanna and Alexis, as well as some of their friends.
The games will be 22-minute halves. Cost is $65 per player, a number which was lowered because the Browns are sponsoring the jerseys.
Any school or individual interested in joining is encouraged to email the organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Registration will run through he end of this month, Berwald said, for the high school girls league.
Charlie Malta was the national referee director for flag football for 25 years with the United States Flag and Touch League (USFTL). He has traveled throughout the United States over the years seeing the sport of flag football grow.
“It’s 5-on-5, no contact, everybody is eligible (to catch passes),” Malta said. “There’s a lot of scoring. This is going to catch on, there’s no doubt in my mind.”