In the western communities, the Friday Night Lights experience is not the sole domain of the varsity football teams at area high schools. Now, pre-teen girls — ages 10, 11 and 12 —are playing under the spotlight as competitive flag football games are being conducted on Friday evenings at Wellington’s Village Park on Pierson Road.
It’s all part of the Western Communities Football League’s (WCFL) effort to give more local girls a chance to play flag football, which is a varsity-level sport in high schools across Florida.
In addition to the girls-only league, which has four teams, the WCFL is conducting a co-ed division for ages 5 to 16 on Saturdays. The co-ed division has 60 teams. Those games — 30 in all each Saturday — start at 9 a.m. and don’t finish until late in the day. For these co-ed games, five fields are being used at Village Park. The girls who play on Friday nights are also allowed to compete in the co-ed division on Saturdays.
This is the inaugural year of the Friday night girls division. Each squad in the division has 10 players. The season started in late March and will conclude with the WCFL’s Super Bowl games on May 21. The girls-only flag football teams are named after four of the major football-playing universities in Florida: FSU, Florida, Miami and UCF.
According to WCFL President Marc Basis, the league worked with schools in Wellington to distribute fliers to the students in order to generate registrations. The idea worked, and now games are being played.
“Encouraging girls to play competitive flag football is a mission and priority of the WCFL,” Basis said. “So far, the girls are having fun, and the games are very competitive. Every aspect of the program is volunteer-driven and supported.”
In an effort to equally distribute the more highly skilled players throughout the league, a combine was held on Feb. 26.
“Like in the NFL, we have the athletes run the 40-yard dash, catch a pass and do an agility drill so coaches can evaluate them for the draft,” Basis said.
According to Basis, local high school students are earning volunteer hours, which they need for high school graduation, by working the concession stands and the scoreboards.
According to WCFL Treasurer Josh Zillmer, the teams practice once a week and play on the weekends. The regular season features nine games for each team, followed by playoffs. Each flag football game features two 20-minute halves.
“This is a great community effort, and it’s being supported by local businesses, which receive on-site exposure at the fields at Village Park and on the WCFL’s web site,” Zillmer said. “Two of our key sponsors are Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital and Dick’s Sporting Goods.”
Referees for the games are being supplied by Mr. Official. Many of the game officials are also approved by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
More information about the Western Communities Football League can be found at www.wcflfootball.com. The league also runs its long-standing tackle football and cheerleading programs, and registration for the fall season is now underway.