“We’ve got speed, we’ve got size, we’ve got good arms,” said Marana head coach Shaun Lara.

Lara isn’t talking about the boys on the Marana High School football team. He’s talking about Marana girls flag football, which is in its first year as an AIA varsity sport.

Thanks in part to a $100,000 grant to the AIA from Nike, girls flag football has crossed to goal line from a club sport to a varsity sport. Marana and Mountain View are the two southern Arizona schools to field a team in its first year.

“I’m happy because I was used to traveling so far,” said wide receiver Malaysia Roebuck.

Roebuck has played flag football for club teams such as the Tucson Turf. Other teammates are new to the sports, with several of them on the wrestling team which is also coached by Lara.

“It’s cool to have continuity with some of the girls,” said Lara, who has ten years of experience as an assistant coach on high boys football teams.

“There’s not a lot of difference between the genders,” said Lara. Most of it is just trying to figure out tackling drills compared to flag pulling drills.”

Proper technique is to use two hands to pull the flag. But, just because the girls aren’t actually tackling, doesn’t mean games won’t get physical.

“You can have contact,” said Roebuck. “You can push and touch. The girls are feisty. I think it’s more interesting to watch.”

There’s another big rule difference with the games being seven on seven. The center is able to run passing routes and catch the ball.

“That blows my mind,” said Lara.

Marana and Mountain view will have do a lot of traveling to the Phoenix area high schools, many of which have already been playing flag football as a club sport.

“Obviously, they have a year or two advantage on us,” said Lara. “But, I think this year we’re going to surprise some people.”