AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) — Inside the Amherst High School gym on a snowy April day, the newly formed Amherst girls flag football team is running routes, perfecting passes and dodging defenders.
“The girls have been great, they’ve been like sponges,” said Coach Chris Kensey. “They’ve worked really hard.”
The 22 high school girls who came out for the team are learning the ins and outs of the game of football. The team has been practicing since before spring break for the spring season, and has its first scrimmage against Western New York teams Saturday.
“This is new for everyone, so they can have the same playing field to start off with,” Kensey said. “This is the first time in WNY Section VI is taking part.”
The girls flag football division is new to WNY. Driven by the NFL, Kensey says teams downstate have been playing for a number of years. The Buffalo Bills even got a hand in donating to the league.
“The Bills have funded our jerseys, balls, our flags,” he said.
The girls who came out for the team say it’s been a unique change of pace from what they’re used to.
“I used to be a cheerleader,” said Amherst Junior Sarah Murphy. “That was as close as I could get to the field—now I’m on the field.”
Murphy says she’s always wanted to play football competitively, ever since her dad taught her the game.
“I wasn’t sure how committed everyone on the team would be, but now that I’m with them they all want to get better they all want to participate,” she said.
She’s not the only cheerleader turned player.
“As I started cheering, I like it, and when I saw this I thought it would be really cool to do,” said Madison Mann, who is also a Junior at Amherst.
“I think over the practices I’ve gotten a lot better,” Mann said.
Other players, like Mariana Penna say there’s a lot of reasons to be proud of this team.
“Girls playing football is kind of controversial,” Penna said. “This makes a statement.” Penna says this is the first sport she’s played in high school.
There are 12 teams in Section VI taking part in this inaugural flag football season, including Amherst.