The Jets held a news conference Tuesday announcing the expansion of the team's high school girls flag football league to 16 Long Island high schools. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Bella Silvestri walked into the Jets’ locker room at MetLife Stadium for what was announced as a tour for a group of girls from Long Island and New Jersey. But there was a sensational surprise waiting inside for the junior from Long Beach High and the others.

The Jets had already shocked Silvestri upstairs by randomly awarding her two tickets to the Super Bowl in Los Angeles. Now she was shocked to see her name over one of the lockers and more good stuff.

Her new blue No. 1 Long Beach jersey for a team that will be playing a new sport at the school was hanging inside. The top went with shorts — her flag football uniform. There was also a pair of cleats and gloves. The same setup was waiting for the others, too.

"I didn’t really expect that," Silvestri said, standing in front of "her locker." "That was also really insane and amazing. I was talking to the other girls, and we’re all thrilled and so grateful that they were able to provide us and give us these things."

The Jets held a launch event at the stadium Tuesday in anticipation of their official announcement Wednesday in conjunction with National Girls & Women in Sports Day: They are expanding the Jets High School Girls Flag Football League from the eight New Jersey teams in the inaugural spring season of 2021 to 42 teams from New Jersey and Long Island.

Starting this spring, there will be 16 Long Island schools in the league.

The eight Nassau/Section VIII teams include: Freeport, Hempstead, Locust Valley, Long Beach, Lynbrook, Massapequa, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK and West Hempstead.

The eight Suffolk/Section XI teams include: Amityville, Center Moriches, Longwood, North Babylon, Sachem East, Sachem North, Whitman and Ward Melville.

"Obviously, we used to call Long Island home for our training center [at Hofstra]," said Jesse Linder, the Jets’ vice president of community relations. "We wanted to make sure that we did something that reached out to those high schools and gave them an opportunity to really play what we consider the greatest sport on Earth."

The Nassau and Suffolk champs will play for the Long Island championship in June at the Atlantic Health Jets Training Center in Florham Park, New Jersey. The title game for New Jersey will also be held there.

The game plan is to further expand on Long Island and to other parts of New York next year.

North Babylon athletic director Jason Friesen, who already has more than 40 girls interested in playing, said, "I think you’re probably looking next year we would want it to be a varsity sport."

Linder said the Jets and Nike are teaming to provide the Long Island schools with 25 sets of uniforms — home and away jerseys, plus shorts — and a grant to offset costs for things like coaches, officials and transportation.

"Bringing flag football I’m hoping is something that’s really exciting and something that generates a lot of participation for our female athletics," Hempstead athletic director Christine Raffo said.

The Jets’ Women’s Organization is also going to mentor some of the girls.

"I think that it’s about making your own path, leaning into the skills you have and the ones you want to develop, and creating a relationship with someone who helps build their network and helps them be successful in life," Jessica Ciccone, the Jets’ vice president of content, strategy and marketing, said of the mentoring message and the value for the players.

Whitman’s Alabama-bound soccer player, Gianna Paul, will also be a flag football player.

"I was going to do badminton, but then they introduced flag football as a new sport for Section XI," Paul said. "I was like, ‘That’s insane. That’s so cool.’ "

Longwood’s soon-to-be flag player Tutu Branch began playing football in the PAL at age 6.

"I just stopped playing last year," Branch said. "I like football a lot."

Isis Person Jouissance would like to be Freeport’s quarterback. She said she has "a good arm."

"I've wanted to play football for a long time now," she said. "Now that I have football at my school, I can just play it for the girls. It’s just fun and entertaining."

What to know about the expansion of the Jets High School Girls Flag Football League:

How many teams in the inaugural 2021 season? 8, all in New Jersey

How many teams in 2022? 42

How many teams on Long Island? 16

Which schools from Nassau/Section VIII have teams? Freeport, Hempstead, Locust Valley, Long Beach, Lynbrook, Massapequa, Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK and West Hempstead.

Which schools from Suffolk/Section XI have teams? Amityville, Center Moriches, Longwood, North Babylon, Sachem East, Sachem North, Whitman and Ward Melville.

What if my school doesn’t offer it? Express interest. The Jets want to expand to more Long Island schools and elsewhere in New York next year.

When do they play? It’s a spring sport.

Is it a varsity sport? No, but that’s the goal.

More High Schools