DENVER — Football is no longer a boys' club. The Denver Broncos launched the first-ever girls high school flag football pilot program last week across 25 schools in the Denver Public Schools, Cherry Creek, and Jefferson County School districts.
“The Denver Broncos are thrilled to have this opportunity to help bring girls high school flag to 25 high schools throughout the Denver Metro Area,” said Bobby Mestas, Broncos Director of Youth & High School Football, in a release. “The districts, the schools and the Colorado High School Activities Association have been tremendous partners thus far and we’re excited to offer the sport of football to more than 500 female student athletes this fall.”
The Broncos, alongside the Colorado High School Activities Association (CHSAA), worked to launch this three-year pilot program, with the ultimate goal of helping Girls High School Flag become a sanctioned, CHSAA sport statewide.
"I think that everyone deserves to play this game," Broncos offensive guard Dalton Risner said.
Risner, who played CHSAA high school football at Wiggins High School, said he's thrilled to see equal opportunity across the board.
As was his Broncos teammate Melvin Gordon, who raved about some female talent he's seen on videos.
"You can't put no tag on anybody," Gordon said. "If you believe that you can do it, you can do it."
The Chatfield Chargers believe that sentiment. Coming off of their first set of games last week, the group of 83 girls are tuning up some of their fundamentals.
"I never thought I'd be able to play football in general, not even flag football, and the fact that I get to, is really cool for me," junior quarterback Dezi McGhee said.
Almost overnight, teams grew to unimaginable sizes from the outpouring of enthusiasm for the sport. The Chatfield group, in particular, has four different teams represented.
"It's just so cool to see what football has become for the girls side of it, and honestly 80 people, that's insane!" sophomore quarterback Alexis McClellan said.
The Chatfield boys varsity head coach Chris Rosholt, who acts as the director of football operations for girls flag football, isn't surprised.
"I feel energy at our practices, but it's a different type of energy at these ones," he said. "These girls are really excited just to play football."
His wife Alexis Rosholt, a lacrosse coach at heart, was pleasantly surprised when she was put in charge of these Chargers, and had some some strong words to describe her girls.
"Power, competitiveness, to the extent that I know some of the boys are texting some of my girls and they are going over stats, who had more interceptions, who had more receiving yards, so that's super cool," she said.
In the wake of Title IX's half century celebration, it's the equity that these athletes are truly embracing.
"I feel such gratitude for it," freshman defensive back Clara Hail said. "It's really exciting to finally see young women getting empowered and this carrying over, and I really hope that the younger generation also recognizes that they can indeed cause change."
It's the same message that resonated with Broncos players when they heard their organization was sponsoring this new league.
"It would be dope to see a girl make it to the NFL one day," Gordon said earnestly. "That's what I'm waiting on. I think that would be dope."
Risner, who said he was always overshadowed for being the wrong size, and underrecruited for being a small-town kid, tried to empathize with these girls for finally having an opportunity.
"It doesn't matter who you are or what you do or where you come from or what gender you are, you can never set requirements on what you do," Risner said.
Jamborees will take place every Saturday with a minimum of three games played per school. District postseason tournaments begin on Saturday, Oct. 8, where eight teams will advance to play in a single-elimination championship tournament held at the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse at UCHealth Training Center on Saturday, Oct. 15. The inaugural championship team will be honored at the annual High School Salute game this season vs. Arizona on Dec. 18.