LOCKWOOD — Lockwood’s girls are rapidly excelling at flag football — a sport fans don’t often see in the high school ranks, but one the Lions hope accelerates across Montana.
The players tell MTN Sports they're in it for different reasons.
“At first I was going to play volleyball because I’ve played it through all of high school," said Lawren Decrane, who shares time at quarterback. "But ever since I was little I grew up with boys, the older brothers, and they watch football so I decided to like it and wanted to play.”
"It’s going to be another opportunity to start a foundation from the very bottom,” said Tailey Harris, who also splits time at QB.
Lockwood activities director Mike Erickson loved the idea of giving students an alternative option, including for some who've rarely played sports.
“This is an opportunity for kids who may not have done anything in the fall or all year long," he said.
The Lions turned to a four-time state wrestling champion who competed at the University of Oregon — Beau Malia, now Lockwood’s wrestling coach — to organize this new huddle.
“There are a couple girls here who don’t play any athletics and it was something new," Malia said. "I can say that every single girl out here has not played structured football.”
“What I love about it is that it’s a lot more intense than basketball,” admitted Decrane.
Sixty players are allowed on a roster. The Lions only have 20, with five eighth graders.
Right now Montana fields four other girls teams — Kalispell Glacier, Kalispell Flathead, St. Ignatius and Butte, which is why the Lions hope it catches attention closer to home.
"It would be fun to start new teams around Billings because there are so many schools here. But it would be really nice to have teams around the east," Harris said.
Here’s the kicker: While girls flag football is not sanctioned by the Montana High School Association, it’s literally free to start thanks to an NFL team.
“To get this started it’s 100% paid for by the Atlanta Falcons, so it’s like we’re out nothing," said Erickson. "We really took a look at it, had a signup sheet and it really blew us away how many girls signed up for it.”
Lockwood showcases its home opener Sept. 22, a Friday night against Butte, just before the guys play their home game versus Havre.
Erickson couldn't be more thrilled at the Lions' rapid progress.
“Flag football is the real deal in our high school right now,” he said.