Murray-based women’s semi-pro football continues to thrive, now with a five-year record of 49-2
Sep 07, 2018 02:40PM
By Jana Klopsch
The 2018 Utah Falconz gather for a team photo, shortly after losing their women’s football championship game in Las Vegas. (Utah Falconz)
By Carl Fauver | [email protected]
A couple of months ago The City Journals reported about the hundreds of Salt Lake Valley girls – including three Murray sisters – who play and love the rough ‘n’ tumble sport of tackle football. The girls play in a league started by Brent Gordon, whose daughter, Sam Gordon, became an internet sensation a few years ago, when highlights of her Ute Conference play – against virtually all boys – went viral.
Brent Gordon is now 15 months into a lawsuit – against the Utah High School Athletics Association, along with Canyons, Granite and Jordan School Districts – to compel them to field girls high school football teams, to comply with the Education Amendments Act of 1972, known as “Title IX.”
Retiring Utah Falconz running back Keeshya Cox believes the legal action is coming none too soon. A little more than a decade ago, the 29-year-old women’s semi-pro football player says sexism was thriving at her high school – and it cost her the opportunity to play the game of her dreams.
“I attended an inner city high school in Kansas City,” Cox explained. “I desperately wanted to play full-contact football. Of course, it would be against all boys, but I wanted the challenge. When I asked the coach to play, he told me I couldn’t because ‘we don’t have pads to fit a girl.’ There had been a few female high school football players around the country by then, so his claim was ridiculous.”
It’s hard to tell what will become of Brent Gordon’s “let the girls play too” lawsuit. But one thing is clear: young ladies under high school age are currently making the Utah Girls Tackle Football League one of the fastest-growing youth sports programs in our state. And women who are post-high school age are thriving in a variety of female, full-contact football leagues across the United States.
If there’s that much interest in the sport among women — pre- and post-high school — it will be interesting to see whether a Utah judge sides with Gordon to force school districts to fill that gap.
And even if girls high school football does not come about in our state, at least the young ladies in the local youth league know, someday they can tryout for one of the most outstanding women’s football teams in the country, without having to leave the Salt Lake Valley.
In fact, you've probably never heard of a team with as high of a winning percentage as the Utah Falconz have, despite losing their league championship game in Las Vegas this summer.
“With that championship loss (22-15 to the Texas Elite Spartans) our five-year record is 49-2,” Rick Rasmussen said. He’s the only head coach the Utah Falconz have ever had.
And yes, you read that right. The women who play their home games at Cottonwood High School in Murray have played 51 games… and have lost only twice. The Falconz were the two-time defending Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) National Champions.
A year ago, the Falcons won their second national title on their home field in Murray. But this year the leagues attempted something different – holding a four-team “Best of the West Women’s Football Championship Tournament” in Las Vegas.
That format forced the Utah women to win a semifinal game (29-14 over the Seattle Majestics) on a Thursday, and then turn around just two days later to face Texas – all in the sweltering Las Vegas heat.
“We weren’t upset about having to play two games in three days,” Cox said. “We took ice baths after that first game and stuck to a strict nutrition plan. We fought hard in the championship and led at halftime. But playing so soon after the semifinal is not why we lost. (The Texas Elite Spartans) were a very good team. And they had to do the same thing.”
The Falcons scored first in the title game, with their 2-point conversion making the score 8-0. Texas countered, but kicked their extra point, resulting in an 8-7 Utah lead at halftime.
“We scored one touchdown in the first half, and another in the second half, against a team that had given up absolutely zero points all season long,” coach Rasmussen added. “The outcome wasn’t what we hoped for. But I have never been more proud of this team. They were clearly the underdogs and fought hard to the very end.”
This was the first meeting between Utah and Texas (based in Dallas) because the Elite Spartans play in a different league. After the championship, the Falconz also announced they will be moving to a different league next season. But that all gets into the kind of politics Keeshya Cox says she and her teammates don’t follow.
“I just play for the love of the game and to be around my teammates,” she said. “That’s why we all do it. We don’t get paid. In fact, our fee to play their season went up to $1,000. We do it because we love it.”
So regardless of whether girls tackle football ever becomes a sanctioned high school sport in Utah (or elsewhere), female players — pre- and post-high school — are clearly demonstrating this is an activity many want to pursue.