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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Girls Tackle Football League is poised to make history when it plays its championship games at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time a high school girls’ football team has ever played in a college football stadium,” said Shawn Goetz, president of the Utah Girls Tackle Football League.
Four games are scheduled, starting at 11:00 am. First, the Junior High Division B, with the Bingham Miners versus Alpine Valkyrie. At 1pm Westlake Thunder meets Canyons Ohana. Then at 3:00 p.m. the girls’ high school championship begins with Riverton Silverwolves versus Springville Valkyrie in Division B and then at 5:00 p.m. with a championship game between West Jordan Lightning and West Granite Quake.
“The opportunity for them to play at Rice-Eccles shows them that they are just as important as boys,” said Goetz. “Boys get their championships there, now the girls get a chance.”
The Utah Girls Tackle Football League began in 2015 with 50 girls. In 2022, the league will have 600 girls playing tackle football.
“It’s overdue. Not only can these girls shoot, they can perform at the highest level,” said Valkyrie Football Club head coach Trevyn Meyer.
Meyer said coaching girls’ soccer is like coaching any other sport and he is proud of what his girls have achieved so far.
“Football takes a lot of work and when you put in that much work and you get the reward at the end, that’s all they care about.”
Several athletes competing on Saturday have played in the Girls Tackle Football League since its inception with hopes of one day playing in a stadium in front of their family and friends.
“I want people to know that girls can be just as good at football as they are at any other sport,” said Laura Goetz, quarterback for the West Jordan Lightning. “You just need the right tools for it.”
Goetz said tackle football taught her the importance of inclusivity and made girls feel welcome in a boy-dominated sport.
“There’s a community of people who have their backs and really understand them,” she said. “Football will be a girls’ sport – they can’t deny that and it’s not going to change.”
Many of the girls who play in the league say they’re used to people being surprised when they say they play tackle football.
“They’re usually really shocked, especially the guys, they’re super shocked,” said Johni Hall, a quarterback for Valkyrie. “But I definitely love playing with the girls a lot more, they’re rougher for sure.”
Hall has been playing tackle football for six years and this is her third year in the girls’ league. She said she wants girls across Utah to be proud of playing such a tough sport and not afraid of who they are.
“I love it and I want girls all over the world to know who I am and what I’m experiencing out there,” she said.
Goetz said the Utah Girls Tackle Football League will continue to grow as more girls become familiar with the possibilities of the sport. He said this weekend’s league games are just the next step in the league’s journey.
“We keep pushing, not accepting the restrictions. We want this to keep growing,” he said. “We would love to see this come to high schools and that there be (girls) high school football teams in every school here in the state.”