BUTTE — Butte High senior Hayla Hoffman leapt at the opportunity to be part of the Bulldogs' first flag football team.
"It means so much to me," she said at a Tuesday evening practice at Naranche Stadium. "When I first heard that we had flag football, I was like 'sign me up, where can I go?'"
Madison Seaholm, also a senior, talked about how excited she was to get a chance to play football beyond pick-up games.
"I've been playing football in my backyard forever so I was like 'heck yeah, I gotta get on this opportunity,'" she said.
Hoffman, Seaholm and about two dozen other girls in 8th through 12th grade will comprise Butte's inaugural team. The Montana High School Association approved a pilot program for the sport in 2021.
The Bulldogs will play their first game at Naranche on Saturday, Sept. 3.
Kalispell Glacier and Kalispell Flathead are also preparing to debut teams. The three programs will play a six-week, round robin schedule that will conclude with a championship game on Oct. 1 at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Butte's coach is Eric Zahler, a Washington native and former Montana Western football player. Zahler has only ever been around 11-Man football and was initially hesitant when asked to helm a version of football he had no experience with.
"It came to the point where they needed a coach, we needed to get the ball rolling and we needed to do it quickly," Zahler said. "We kind of took off running, held some open gyms this summer and here we are at the start of the season."
And while flag football may not be as physical as its full-padded counterpart, it's certainly not a non-contact sport.
"Oh there's definitely contact," Hoffman said with a grin. "It's girls running in opposite directions. They're gonna hit each other."