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SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Girls Tackle Football League is about to make history when it holds its championship games at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday.
"To my knowledge, it's the first time ever that a high school girls football team will play in a college football stadium," said Shawn Goetz, president of the Utah Girls Tackle Football League.
Four games are scheduled, starting at 11 a.m. First, the Junior High Division B, featuring the Bingham Miners vs. Alpine Valkyrie. At 1 p.m., Westlake Thunder will take on Canyons Ohana. Then at 3 p.m., the girls high school championships will begin with Riverton Silverwolves vs. Springville Valkyrie in Division B, and then a 5 p.m. championship game between West Jordan Lightning and West Granite Quake.
"The opportunity for them to play at Rice-Eccles shows them that they matter the same as boys," Goetz said. "Boys get their championships there, now the girls are getting a chance."
The Utah Girls Tackle Football league began in 2015 with 50 girls. In 2022, the league has 600 girls playing tackle football.
"It's past due. These girls can not only ball, but they can perform at the highest level," said Trevyn Meyer, head coach for the Valkyrie Football Club.
Meyer said coaching girls football is like coaching any other sport, and he's proud of what his girls have accomplished thus far.
"Football requires you to put in a lot of work, and so when you put that much work in and you reap the reward at the end, it's everything to them."
Several athletes competing on Saturday have played in the girls tackle football league since its creation, hoping to one day play in a stadium in front of their family and friends.
"I want people to know that girls can be just as good at playing football as any other sport," said Laura Goetz, a quarterback for the West Jordan Lightning. "They just need the proper tools to do it."
Goetz said tackle football has taught her the importance of inclusivity, making sure girls feel welcome in a sport dominated by boys.
"There's a community with people who have their back and really understand them," she said. "Football is something that will be a girls sport — they can't deny that and it's not going to change."
Many of the girls playing in the league say they're used to people being surprised when they say they play tackle football.
"They're normally really shocked, especially the boys, they're super shocked," said Johni Hall, a quarterback for Valkyrie. "But I definitely love playing with the girls a lot more, they're more rough for sure."
Hall has played tackle football for six years, and this is her third year playing in the girls league. She said she wants girls all over Utah to be proud of playing such a tough sport and to not be afraid of who they are.
"I love it, and I want girls all over the world to experience what I am and what I experience out there," she said.
Goetz said the Utah Girls Tackle Football League will continue to grow as more girls become familiar with opportunities in the sport. He said this weekend's championship games are just the next step in the league's journey.
"We keep pushing, don't accept the limitations. We want this to continue to grow," he said. "We would love for this to get into the high schools and for there to be (girls) high school football teams at every school here in the state."