Her name is Maggie Conforti, but you can call her QB 1.

Her target is wide receiver Alyssa Williams.

Maggie, Alyssa, and 36 other Evanston Township High School students make up the active roster of the first-ever ETHS Girls Flag Football team, which plays its season opener Thursday afternoon at Lazier Field.

“I played catch with my dad since I was a little kid,” says Maggie, an ETHS sophomore.

“We’ve always bonded over football.”

“I was excited but a little skeptical,” Maggie says, when she first learned that ETHS was starting a girls’ team.

But “once I found out more, I got really excited, because it’s something I wanted to do for a long time.”

Alyssa, a senior, says she grew up as both a basketball fan and player, “but I always wanted to play football.”

As with her quarterback, Alyssa says she was “really excited to join the team.”

Alyssa says she did occasionally “throw the football around here and there” in the past, but never played it as an actual sport.

Now, she says, “it’s really fun.”

Quarterback Maggie Conforti (L) and wide receiver Alyssa Williams.

There is no blocking and no tackling in girls’ flag football, which has seven players on each side of the ball. For those not familiar with the flag game, the runner is “down” when a flag is pulled from her belt.

Phys Ed teacher Luella Gesky is the head coach.

The fact that there even is a girls’ high school squad, Gesky says, is “pretty incredible.”

Girls’ teams started organizing a few years ago, in part thanks to support from the National Football League (in fact, the Chicago Bears donated $2,500 to the ETHS team for uniforms and equipment).

Now, Gesky says, the sport “has exploded.” A fund-raiser brought in about $8,500 (above what the Bears gave), nearly double what was expected.

There are now eight girls’ teams in the Central Suburban League, complete with a regular season and playoffs.

Flag football is still a club sport in Evanston. Gesky and her assistant coach are volunteers. No pay.

“I love the sport and love giving the girls an opportunity” to play it, the coach adds.

Because there is no hitting, the girls’ flag game relies largely on speed.

The games have two, 20-minute halves with a running clock.

“It’s almost like a big game of tag and football combined,” Gesky explains.

“It’s exciting and very fast paced.”

Girls’ flag football is also starting to make inroads in college.

While the NCAA does not have it as a sport, 15 small colleges in the NAIA (another college athletics organizing body) have teams.

“I’d love to play in college,” says Alyssa.

The ETHS varsity flag team plays at 5:30, the JV at 6:30.

There is one more thing.

Both Maggie and Alyssa say they are Green Bay Packers fans.

But go ahead and root for them anyway. They’re part of the home team, and they’re sports pioneers.

Update 9/15/23:

The ETHS girls flag football teams lost their season openers (both varsity and jv) versus Lane Tech, but the games were close.

The varsity was defeated 14-0, and the jv lost 12-6.

Coach Luella Gesky says it was a great game for both of her squads, with some impressive play, even though they fell short.

Considering that Lane Tech was undefeated last year, the ETHS girls are off to a good start.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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