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West Valley City Journal

Quake take second in the UGTFL division two

Aug 05, 2020 03:56PM ● By Greg James

The Quake celebrate their second place finish in the UGTFL. (Greg James/City Journals)

By Greg James | [email protected] 

The West Granite Quake girls tackle football team’s season didn’t end with a championship, but its improvement over last year was unimaginable.

“Last season, I do not think we even scored a point,” said Blair Warren, the mother of Quake running back Riley Moreno Hillman. “We finished dead last and now look where these kids are.” Moreno Hillman has played football for two years and lives in Tooele. She was part of the West Granite team in the Utah Girls Tackle Football League.

The Quake finished undefeated and qualified for the championship game in the high school-aged division two. Disappointingly, they lost 12-0 to Utah Valley Valkyrie, a team made up of girls in the American Fork and Lehi area.

The championship game was a back and forth defensive battle, the Quake trailed at halftime 6-0. Early in the second half they allowed another touchdown and fell behind 12-0, but they rallied back and were able to put together a sustained drive into Valkyrie territory before a costly fumble ended their chances.

The Quake are made up of girls from the West Valley and Tooele. 

“We were the underdogs, not winning any games last season and to bounce back like we did this year was incredible,” Quake assistant coach Crys Sacco said. “Our defense was knocking them back.”

The league included 17 high school-age teams this season. The Quake had 20 girls on their roster. 

“This sport is the No. 1 sport in America, people love it. This year has been about equality in life and especially in sports. Lots of girls have wanted an opportunity to play since they were little and they just didn’t get it. Now they are breaking those barriers. Girls are saying I am not a cheerleader, some girls are not dancers,” Sacco said.

UGTFL member Sam Gordon and her father Brent filed a lawsuit three years ago alleging the state and school districts had violated Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination in education. 

Last year, a federal judge ordered that the school districts and attorneys survey to gauge the interest of high school girls in playing football.

“Now these girls are breaking gender barriers. They are paving the way for little girls to play at high school,” Sacco said.

The league played its first game April 7, 2015. It is believed to be the first organized girls tackle football league in the United States. The inaugural season only included four teams.

“Many of the girls that play on this team come from broken homes and have had to deal with hard things,” Sacco said. “This gives them a place in the world.”

The season was set to begin in March when the pandemic closed schools. The league paused all activities. In June, when the state moved to yellow in most locations, they scrambled to begin their season.

In less than one month the team played its four-game season and its playoffs. 

“It is fun to go out and hit someone,” Hunter High school sophomore Raven Toki-Manigoa said. “Plus, I like being with my friends. It feels good for us to have played in this game.”