The Reign, 5-7 a year ago, is a member of the Women's Football Alliance, a 42-team national league that plays full-tackle football. And when first-time spectators show up, "they're like, 'Wow, these women can play football. They can really hit,'" said Everett coach Billy Russo, a graduate of Lakewood High School and a former college and semipro player.
Moreover, the team "is using a lot of the same plays that you see teams using in college football and in the NFL," said Brooklyn Holton of Arlington, who plays wide receiver, safety and outside linebacker. "We're doing exactly what you'd expect a guys' team to be doing … and we're playing at a fast pace."
The Reign joined the existing WFA last season and had only three players with previous league experience. It could have been a humbling year, but Everett actually surprised a few opponents by winning five games.
"We were all raw," Russo said. "Some teams probably thought we were a new organization and that we wouldn't be very good since we were all rookies, but all of a sudden we were beating people. So this year we're not going to sneak up on anybody."
Holton is one of 21 returning players for Everett. The team also has 19 new players.
"This year we're way more athletic (than in 2013)," Russo said. "We're faster and we're bigger. And then having half the team returning is huge because now we have some experience."
"I expect even better things than last year," Holton said. "We're not a big team in size, but we have a lot of athleticism. And the girls that came out this year have added to that. … We're more versatile, and we have more options in our running game and passing game this year."
The Reign is opening its season with three exhibition games. Everett traveled to face the Las Vegas Showgirlz on March 1 and was defeated 26-0.
The second preseason game will be tonight at Everett Memorial Stadium as the Reign hosts the Utah Falconz at 6 p.m. The regular-season opener will be April 5 against the Tacoma Trauma, also at Everett Memorial Stadium.
The WFA is comprised of two conferences and 12 divisions. Everett plays in the Northwest Division of the American Conference, and the division's other teams are the Portland Fighting Fillies, the Portland Shockwave, the Seattle Majestics, the Tacoma Trauma and the Utah Blitz.
The goal, Russo said, "is to win the division and get to the playoffs. You have to finish first or second (to reach the playoffs), but we'd like to win the division and secure a higher seed.
"Last year we were right there, even with a lot of injuries," he said. "If we hadn't had those (injuries), who knows what might have happened. But this year I think we've got a real shot of getting to the playoffs."
2014 Everett Reign schedule
March 22 Utah Falconz*
March 29 at Utah Jynx*
April 5 Tacoma Trauma
April 12 at Utah Blitz
April 19 at Seattle Majestics
April 27 Portland Fillies **
May 3 Utah Blitz
May 17 at Tacoma Trauma
May 31 at Portland Shockwave
June 7 Seattle Majestics
* Preseason game
** 1 p.m.
All home games at 6 p.m., Everett Memorial Stadium (except as noted). Tickets are $12 and $50 for the season (five home games). Seniors 65 and older and military are half price, and kids 10 and under are free.
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