CINCINNATI — It’s a new kind of Friday night lights this spring in Cincinnati as six schools join the first all-girls flag football league, sponsored by the Bengals. Games kick off for the first time, and for many players and coaches, it means a lot to be the trailblazers in the sport. 

What You Need To Know

  • The first high school girls' flag football league starts this spring 

  • Six all-girls schools are participating in the inaugural year

  • The Bengals are sponsors of the league, providing grants, equipment and uniforms to all of the teams

  • The season will conclude with a tournament at the Bengals practice facility in May

The Mount Notre Dame Cougars didn’t let a little rain stop them in their final practice before their first game.

“I’m going to need a hot shower after this!” head coach Desmon Gault said in the pouring down rain.

Gault has a little experience playing in the elements after playing collegiate football in Michigan. And now, he’s preparing his girls to be ready for anything.

Desmon Gault takes in the rain during practice. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“You don’t know what conditions you’re going to be participating under, right?" Gault said. "So your mindset has to be above the element. And so I figured tomorrow we may get a little rain and if they don’t know how to play in the rain, then we’re going to have a sloppy game.”

Quarterback Evie Schoolfield still figuring out the whole throwing in the rain thing. The sophomore is the youngest of seven siblings and always wanted to play football like her brothers.

Evie Schoolfield is the starting quarterback for the Cougars. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“It was always like they do it, I want to do it!” Schoolfield said.

Now, her older brothers helping her learn the game.

“My one brother, he definitely took me outside and he’s gone through the stuff with me," Schoolfield said. "I don’t think he understands what it is yet because it’s not tackle football,  but they’re all definitely excited.”

The flag football league is a partnership with the Cincinnati Bengals; the NFL team hosted nearly 200 girls in the fall to kick off the partnership.

“Just having their support means the world just to know that they’re actually giving back to the community," Gault said.

For senior wide receiver and captain Mikenzi Coffey, having a coach like Gault to be the one to lead the team in its first season is special.

Mikenzi Coffey lines up for a wide receiver drill. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“He’s really encouraging," Coffey said. "He’s always really hyped to get us ready for practice.”

She hopes that her lone year on the team will be impactful for the sport for years to come.

Coffey says Gault it's special to have Gault as the coach of the team. (Spectrum News 1/Katie Kapusta)

“It’s really exciting but also like nerve-wracking just to put our foot out there and set the standard for this sport," Coffey said.

For Coach Gault, while he doesn’t lack enthusiasm, he knows how big of a task it is to be the first, especially at MND.

“There’s something about being the first," he said. "And also being the first at Mount Notre Dame because we stand on the shoulders of giants at Mount Notre Dame, from coaches to players. And it’s just something about bringing that first to Mount Notre Dame and also being the first in the city to do an all-girls league, that’s unheard of."

The teams all begin play on April 12 and will play each other over the next six weeks. The season will conclude with a tournament at the Bengals practice fields on May 13.