Following the unanimous vote to officially sanction girls flag football as a California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) sport, this fall marks the inaugural season of the sport at Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) high schools. All four of the district’s comprehensive high schools—El Dorado, Esperanza, Valencia, and Yorba Linda–are currently participating with teams of their own.
CIF is the governing body for all high school sports in the state of California. The decision was made amidst the sport’s growing popularity across the state. CIF officials have stated that the goal is to provide another avenue for more girls to join high school sports. Flag football offers players action-packed competition without the full-body contact involved in tackle football.
In flag football, each athlete wears a belt with three flags around her waist. A play ends when an opposing player pulls a flag from the belt of the person carrying the ball. The game is played seven on seven within two 20-minute running halves. Touchdowns are worth the traditional six points, and teams can play for extra points with a one- or two-point conversion.
After the CIF decision was announced, all four PYLUSD comprehensive high schools worked to create teams for competition with the support of the district. In addition to attracting first-time athletes, each school has found that students who play softball, basketball, water polo, soccer, lacrosse, and track as their primary sport have signed on to play flag football.
“The players already possess extreme athletic skills,” Esperanza High School Athletic Director Keri Walters shared. “They really picked up flag football quickly and the rest is history. The game is super fun to play and even for spectators to watch.”
Esperanza High’s flag football team started off strong with an undefeated record in the first month of the season. Going into October, the team is ranked 3rd overall on the MaxPreps flag football rankings. There are a total of 33 athletes playing on the school’s varsity and junior varsity teams. The Orange County Register recently published an article about the team’s success, which reads in part: “The more diverse the student-athlete, the better. That’s one of the strongest themes that has catapulted Esperanza’s girls flag football team in the national rankings and to an Orange County-best 17-0 record. The Aztecs’ roster is comprised of several players from the school’s highly successful softball and girls basketball programs, along with a few others from soccer, water polo and golf.” Coach Jimmy Valverde is best-known as Esperanza’s girls basketball coach, though he also has coached baseball.”
View Esperanza High’s flag football schedule and current standings here.
At Valencia High, interest in the sport was immediately apparent. Chemistry teacher Brady Bilhartz volunteered to head up the program, as he has experience coaching his daughter’s flag football team. The school held an initial meeting last spring, and more than 80 prospective athletes attended.
In July, Coach Bilhartz put on a summer camp alongside assistant coaches Leina Howard, a biology teacher at the school, and Zach Johnson, a Valencia alumnus. “The girls proved to be hard-working, dedicated, athletic, coachable, and excited for the opportunity to make history as Valencia High School’s very first flag football team,” wrote Coach Bilhartz.
The camp rolled right into the start of the season, and 36 athletes joined Valencia’s varsity and junior varsity teams. Enthusiasm for the sport has spread throughout the community as parents, teachers, and fellow students continue to attend the games in large numbers. View Valencia High’s flag football schedule and current standings here.
At El Dorado High, 32 athletes are participating in the sport across the junior varsity and varsity teams. Ray Elliott, the Athletic Director at El Dorado, is encouraged by the team’s fantastic performance in the season thus far. View El Dorado High’s flag football schedule and current standings here.
Yorba Linda High has 26 athletes playing on their varsity-level flag football team. “It’s exciting to have Women’s flag football as an official CIF sport,” says Dr. Richard Dinh, the school’s principal. “The games have been fun to watch and truly showcase the players’ dedication and the joy they bring to the field. The future of women’s flag football is bright at Yorba Linda High School.” View Yorba Linda High’s flag football schedule here.
The growing excitement surrounding the addition of flag football is a testament to the importance of including girls in athletics. The district is proud to support our high schools as they work to further girls’ involvement in our excellent athletics programs.