Newsday's Gregg Sarra discusses the new plan from the New York Jets to expand their high school girls flag football league in the tri-state area, including 24 new teams on Long Island. Credit: NewsdayTV

Long Island is adding 24 teams to the high school girls flag football league for the spring season, bringing the total number of teams to 41.

The official announcement was made by the Jets on Wednesday, timed to coincide with National Girls & Women in Sports Day. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association also voted on Wednesday to make this a sanctioned varsity championship sport in 2024, complete with a state tournament.

The Jets High School Girls Flag Football League, in association with Nike and Gatorade, is also expanding for a third season in New Jersey and starting up in Section IX in the Hudson Valley. So the league now has 107 teams, up from 43.

“We want to promote the sport and we want to give women the same opportunity that men have to play the game,” said Eli Hodges, the Jets’ director of community relations and youth football. “It’s something that the appetite’s there. You obviously see it with the numbers."

In conjunction with the Jets’ announcement, they invited players from the new team at Plainedge High School and three other teams to MetLife Stadium last Wednesday for a Women in Sports panel discussion and a surprise, the uniforms from Nike being revealed in the Jets’ locker room. The lockers had nameplates for the girls and contained those uniforms, cleats and equipment.

Kate Franks left the locker room to put on some nice new football clothes and accessories that had been waiting for the Plainedge players — the red jersey, shorts, socks and headband, and the bright white gloves and cleats.

“It’s like football heaven,” Franks said after returning in uniform.



Besides 60 PSAL teams, there are 142 NYSPHSAA teams spanning eight sections set to play what that organization deemed an “emerging sport” for this season, an increase from 51 in six sections last year as a pilot program.

NYSPHSAA assistant director Todd Nelson said the growth has “exceeded our expectations."

“The NFL clubs are offering grant resources to new schools,” Nelson added about the Jets, Giants and Bills.

This season, the Jets will host a New York regional title game — Long Island vs. Section IX — June 10 at their New Jersey training complex.

“We’re going to win it,” Plainedge coach Anthony Giovanelli said of any championship opportunity. “ . . . It’s an attitude.”

Plainedge High School has been added to the Jets-sponsored girls flag football league for the upcoming 2023 season. Credit: Corey Sipkin

Athletic director T.J. Burke expressed interest to Section VIII last spring about starting a team. The Jets subsequently contacted him.

“Plainedge football is pretty big and now the girls get to be a part of it fully,” Burke said.

After changing into her Red Devils uniform, senior receiver Amanda Marinace said, “I love sitting in the stands at the boys’ football game. It was always something [where] I would joke around with my friends, like, ‘I could get out there and do what they’re doing.’ ”

Now she gets her chance. So does Franks.

The freshman cheerleader will compete to be the quarterback.

“I saw that flag football was an opportunity and I was like, ‘Hey, I want to do football,’ ” Franks said. “I think it’s a really cool sport.”

Long Island teams in Jets High School Girls Flag Football League

Nassau

Returning

  • Bellmore-Merrick (defending LI champ)
  • Freeport
  • Hempstead
  • Locust Valley
  • Long Beach
  • Lynbrook
  • Massapequa
  • Plainview-Old Bethpage JFK
  • West Hempstead

New

  • Bethpage
  • Division
  • East Rockaway
  • MacArthur
  • Plainedge
  • Roosevelt
  • Roslyn
  • Syosset
  • Valley Stream Central
  • Westbury

Suffolk

Returning

  • Amityville
  • Center Moriches
  • Longwood
  • North Babylon
  • Sachem East
  • Sachem North
  • Whitman (defending Suffolk champ)
  • Ward Melville

New

  • Connetquot
  • East Hampton
  • Eastport-South Manor
  • Floyd
  • Half Hollow Hills
  • Harborfields
  • Hauppauge
  • Huntington
  • Lindenhurst
  • Mattituck
  • Northport
  • Patchogue-Medford
  • Riverhead Charter School
  • Sayville
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