LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – For over a decade, former USC quarterback Matt Leinart has been growing the game of football in Southern California through his “Matt Leinart Flag Football League.” The league’s popularity has perhaps uncovered a sleeping giant: High School Flag Football exclusively for girls.
The “Matt Leinart Flag Football League” partnered up with Grrridiron Girls and Under Armour to present the inaugural girls high school flag football season.
“It’s exceeded our expectations as far as the excitement, the number of teams and there’s some phenomenal athletes out there,” said Frank Albers, Vice President of Operations for Matt Leinert Flag Football.
There are currently nine teams and 115 girls from local high schools playing in the league with hopes of doubling that size next season.
“We have groups from our school coming out supporting us. It’s something where at first it was like ‘okay, we’re gonna play just for fun,’ but now it’s getting more competitive,” said Sydney Bertoni, a junior at Beckman High School. “You can see as everyone’s cheering, people are really into it.”
Bertoni first fell in love with playing flag football in the sixth grade when her and her best friend joined an all-boys flag football league.
“Me and her helped lead a whole girls team out there. We played against all boys teams, beat them, [and] won the championship,” said Bertoni. “I think probably during those years where I got to play with whole girl teams and show the boys that we could play just as good as them – that’s where I truly fell in love with the sport.”
There are now opportunities for female athletes to continue playing in college with 13 NAIA schools offering scholarships for women’s flag football.
“We just had a lot of girls who really love flag football. It’s really been, I think, kind of a long time coming,” said Leinart, who won the Heisman Trophy in 2004 while leading the Trojans to a national championship. “It’s a matter of just now growing it and getting all the high schools on board, so that we can make this thing big and make [girls flag football] a C.I.F sport.”