DENVER -- A semiprofessional sports team in Denver is in the hunt for a national championship title.
The Mile High Blaze is a full-contact women’s tackle football team. It is one of 65 teams across the country in the Women’s Football Association.
“We do exactly what the men do, just females,” player Kimberly Santistevan said.
The Blaze joined the league in 2014. It struggled its first year and got eliminated from the playoffs during its second season.
“We’re coming with a vengeance this year,” quarterback Adrienne Tauaese said.
The team is 8-0 heading into the second round of the playoffs. It hasn't allowed a point all season and is averaging 53.5 points per game.
Its offense is so good, its kicker has only had to attempt one field goal all season.
“It takes every person every day to get us to where we have come and it’s a lot of hard work,” Santistevan said.
The women practice at least three times per week. Some travel to Denver from as far away as Wyoming and Colorado Springs to be on the team.
“It’s an amazing group of women,” Santistevan said. “We have moms, a couple grandmothers, believe it or not, police officers and nurses.”
The youngest player is 21 and the oldest is 49 years old.
“It’s something different. Not every mom plays semipro football,” Jenea Covington said.
She joined the team after watching her teenage son play football. The Blaze is a team where “playing ball like a girl” is something to be proud of.
“It’s fun to see people get excited about us in the stands and be excited that women can get out there and do the same thing that men can,” offensive tackle Kim Fornell said.
“It’s a great way for us to toughen up and it’s a great way for us to break the stereotype,” Covington said.
The women practice just like the men, hit like the guys and even trash talk like the guys.
“I don’t think other than having the ponytails sticking out anybody would really notice that it’s females,” Santistevan said.
That is exactly how the players like it.
“All the little girls out there that can’t play, all the women out there that can’t play, I do it for them,” Tauaese said. “Showing my daughter that you can do anything, that anything is possible.”
While the Blaze sets out to win, just getting to play is still a huge victory for women’s football. Every player on the field believes it is important to set an example for other young women and girls.
“I want them to be able to see no matter how old you are you can still get out there and play,” Fornall said.
“At the end of the day, if I can get at least one more little girl to play, it’s perfect,” Santistevan said.
The Blaze will play its final home game of the season against the Sin City Trojans at 7 p.m. Saturday at Adams 12 Five Star Stadium (9360 Washington St. in Thornton).
Tickets are $5 for children younger than 12 and seniors, and $10 for everyone 13 years old and older.
If it wins, the Blaze will go on to the American Conference championship in St. Louis and then on to the national championship game in Pittsburgh.