The state of Utah has its first-ever high school girls football state champion.
On May 27, the Herriman Mustangs completed a 14-0 victory over Bingham to capture the state title. The Utah Girls Tackle Football League also crowned champions in its junior high division and fifth- and sixth-grade divisions. In both younger divisions Canyons area teams defeated West Jordan.
“We have 210 girls signed up this season,” league President Crystal Sacco said. “We more than doubled our numbers. The first year we only had about 60. Our volunteers talked it up and we recruited. The league is still learning, and we have had some things to change, but it has been so successful.”
The UGTFL high school division included teams from West Jordan/Copper Hills, Riverton, Canyons, West Granite, Herriman and Bingham.
In the championship game, Herriman dominated offensively, moving the ball down the field with relative ease, but Bingham came up with key stops when it needed to. Despite its tenacious defense, the Miners were unable to stop the Mustang tailback Sam Gordon when it counted. She followed the blocking of an offensive line made up of three sisters; Kalo, Laso and Vea Latu.
“It is my first time to play,” Herriman senior Laso Latu said. “I love my team and how they give me confidence.”.
Herriman scored two first-half touchdowns. Gordon scampered 25 yards for the first score and later followed a block on the left side for a 6-yard score. The Mustangs held on for a victory.
“It feels fantastic to be the first-ever state champion,” Mustangs head coach Brent Gordon said. “We had a really talented group of girls. We started out teaching fundamentals, and the girls from day one were making the big hits and good blocks. It was our strategy to follow those big blockers. The whole season they were solid.”
The league leadership realizes this is new to most players. They decided early on to make the league more basic.
“Unlike the boys teams that practice six days a week for hours each day, we only do two hours twice a week,” Brent Gordon said. “We try to keep it simple. Football provides opportunity for all the girls. Skill players can play and so can bigger girls that can shine. It gives self-confidence for all of the girls.”
Many girls have had the opportunity to compete against the boys, but Sacco said as the boys get older they become naturally stronger.
“This league gives the girls a chance to play,” Sacco said. “Some of these girls are tough. I do not think they realize it until they get the chance.”
League officials plan to expand the league. Sacco said next year they intend on opening teams in other areas. They have a connection with local women’s professional teams like the Falconz and Blitz. With sponsorship money, the league has given opportunities to girls who could not afford to play.
“The league as a whole is young,” Brent Gordon said. “It started three years ago, and those fifth- and sixth-graders then are now heading into high school now. I have parents tell me they are football families and all of the boys play. Now the girls are not left out. Brothers are cheering and teaching the game to their sisters. At the dinner table they can break it down, and the girl’s status in her family has elevated.”