Spring is a great season for sports fans. March Madness has the nation in a college basketball frenzy and baseball and softball parks across the nation are abuzz with the sounds of cracking bats and cheering fans. What many Utah sports fans aren’t yet aware of is that they’ve got football to watch, too.
That’s right, football—to be more specific, women’s full-tackle football. The Utah Blitz women’s football team is back for a second year of gridiron action, and the team is looking to be a force on their new home field at Judge Memorial High School.
“Things are going awesome, we have a lot of returning players,” Concetta Defa, Blitz player and co-founder said. “We’ve also picked up some players who weren’t with us last year, but have played for other teams.”
The Blitz have acquired some experienced players at key positions, perhaps most notably at quarterback and running back. With several other players that have at least a year under their belts now, the squad feels prepared for a good run this year.
“This will be my fourth year, and I’m on my third team,” new Blitz quarterback Alicia Tucker said. “I’ll also be playing at safety, as well as on special teams for kickoffs, punts and field goals.”
Tucker spent time in the Independent Women’s Football League (IWFL) in Portland, and played for Utah’s sister-team, the Portland Fighting Fillies. She’s in her second year at quarterback, having started out catching passes as a wide receiver.
The Blitz have also picked up a promising player named Shawna Meek. With speed and height, she’s a running back that has a lot of experience and should help this Utah Blitz team establish a consistent running game this year.
“Shawna has played for more than nine years – she’s played in the IWFL out of Idaho. We’ve got four from out of state, and they’re really good additions to our team.” Defa said. “It’s great because the new girls that we have are also really picking this up quickly.”
There are some new faces on the Blitz coaching staff this season as well. Head coach Dave “Coach D” Charley takes over the duties on the clipboard, and has already garnered the respect of his new players.
Assistant coaches Kavin Henry and Al “Pops” Charley help Coach D run a tight ship, and their players are expected to give a lot of effort during the team’s practices. The Blitz have preseason practices that last up to four hours or more, often in the cold Utah rain or snow.
“With four or five hour practices, it can be tough sometimes. There’s a lot of time we put into travel, too, once the season starts,” Tucker said. Tucker stands at a slight 5-foot-3-inches tall, and wears the number 9 on her jersey. “Once things get going, we’ll be going on up to 14-hour road trips, too.”
The Utah Blitz play football in the Women’s Football Alliance, or WFA. The WFA consists of over 60 teams across the country, divided into small conferences to reduce travel. Teams compete in an eight-game regular season followed by full playoffs and a championship, and the Blitz are excited about their chances at on-field success this year.
“This team compared to last year’s team is actually pretty incredible,” Tucker said, who works in security when she’s not taking snaps for the Blitz. “Our team was one of the oldest teams as far as average age. This year, we’re not just bringing in the experience, but we’ve got a lot of youth.”
The Blitz have more players that are in their 20s or early 30s than last season, and the consensus around practice is that youth will go a long way for the team this year. Managing such a diverse mix of players and experience levels can prove challenging for coaches, but Defa feels that the staff has it handled.
“Our coaches are doing an awesome job. They’ve got an uphill battle as far as what they’ve got to work with,” Defa said. “With all these new players coming on, some players know more than others. Our coaches have done a great job of taking new players off to the side, getting them up to speed, and throwing ’em back in there.”
Women who are interested in joining the Utah Blitz can still do so. The financial cost to play football for the Blitz in the WFA is considerably less than many other league, and with only 30 players on their 2011 roster, the team would like to add players.
“I think a lot of women initially expect the fast pace and big hits of football, but I also think that they underestimate their own physical strength,” Tucker said. “I always say—go at it full speed, and you’ll fit right in with us.”
When it comes to contact, WFA rules are no different than the men’s game. Football is by nature a violent sport, but the women of the Blitz understand that. The team has employed an athletic trainer and medical specialist to help with any injury issues.
“The pain might last a little bit longer than expected,” Tucker said. “You know, those bruises that are there for a week and a half instead of just a few days, but a lot of women are much stronger than they think they are.”
The Blitz open their season on Saturday, April 2 vs. the Spokane Scorn at 5 p.m. All home games are played at Judge Memorial High School. Concessions are available, and Red Robin provides a mobile truck to cook up burgers and fries for hungry football fans.
“We really try hard to provide a fun, family-friendly atmosphere,” said Defa, who plays nose guard on the Blitz defensive line. “We had a great turnout last year, but this season we’d like to double it.”
Season and individual tickets, merchandise, schedule info and more are available at utblitz.com. Anyone interested in joining the team can find more at facebook.com/Utah.blitz.