One of the rising varsity sports on Long Island is girls’ flag football.
This year, in its second season there will be a Long Island vs Westchester title game and a state championship in 2024. One of the programs leading the charge is Long Beach High School, coached by Rocky Butler.
“I think we have a great group of girls who are giving as much effort and focus as they can,” Butler said. “They're learning a brand new sport. They're super excited and super passionate about it.”
The Marines have 40 girls on their roster, which can be tough to navigate in 7-on-7 football, but that just shows how much interest there is in the program.
“We just continue to try to grow the program as much as we can, so down the road we can keep rocking and rolling,” Butler said. “I think next year we're going to have a JV team, which will get even more girls involved so that’ll be great.”
This spring’s squad has a wealth of talent that includes starting quarterback Brooke Nielsen, returning starters Jocelyn Bravo and Stefania Robinson, as well as standouts Fabiana Boncina, Emma Larson, Zoe Conway, and Caitlin Reyes.
“We have a bunch of girls who each have their own individual specialties,” said Butler, who is assisted by Lori DeVivio. “I'm happy with what we got as far as the quality of girls on our roster.”
The team is led by defensive specialist Riley Roberts and Isabella Silvestri, who was actually a main proponent of bringing girls’ flag football to Long Beach.
“[Silvestri] was the one who kind of started the whole thing. She did such a good job that representatives from the New York Jets picked one person from each program and she ended up winning tickets to the Super Bowl last year, which was pretty awesome,” Butler said.
The sport is taking such big strides, that some girls on Long Island are even being offered scholarships to play flag football at the NCAA level.
Long Beach is currently sitting at 5-5 after a bit of an up and down couple of weeks, but the playoffs are very much still in play.
“We have to get at least two of these last three games to get us in the playoffs,” Butler said. “We have to check in on what the other schools are looking like as far as their record. There’s always a chance if we drop two games we still have a chance to get in.”
The hope is always to get into the playoffs and make a run at the championship, but Butler wants to make sure the girls are taking it a game at a time.
“The game that's in front of us, that's one that we're focused on. We're just trying to focus on that one game at a time and seeing if we can put something pretty good together,” he said.
This week Long Beach takes on Lynbrook and East Rockaway in its quest for the playoffs.