High school football is becoming a popular sport for girls.

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, the total number of athletes taking part in 11-player football in 2015-16 increased by 80 to 1,085,272. The increase can be attributed to more girls participating. This past year, a record 1,964 played football, which was up from 1,565 the year before.

The Associated Press reports 32 states had girls participating in football. California had the most with 333 followed by Ohio (245), Texas (178), Arizona (115) and Colorado (109). There were 24 states that reported increased boys participation. From 2013 to 2014, there was a decline of nearly 10,000 boys who played football.

NFHS Executive Director Bob Gardner said he was encouraged over the slight increase and credited the adoption of state laws and protocols for concussion management.

Flag football is booming, with an 18 percent increase to 12,093. The sport has been popular with girls, but there were 69 schools that had offered the sport to boys last year, which was more than double the 32 one year earlier.

Overall participation in high school sports reached an all-time high of 7,868,900, an increase of 61,853 from the previous year. Girls participation increased for the 27th straight year and set an all-time high of 3,324,326.

ON A ROLL: Football fortunes at Portsmouth High School finally are improving under second-year coach Aaron Duncan. The Trojans rolled past Gallia Academy, 42-7, Friday night to improve to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the Ohio Valley Conference. Their only loss is to unbeaten Wheelersburg.

"We haven't had this many wins a long time," Duncan told Nikki Blankenship of the Portsmouth Daily Times. "They don't want to stop there. They want to go the OVC Championship. That's their goal."

Portsmouth has two straight major tests to pass if it wants to achieve that goal and making the playoffs. The Trojans visit Coal Grove this week and unbeaten Chesapeake next week. "We've really come together as a team," Duncan said. "The spirit is unbelievable. We're going to have to stick together no matter what. Tough times will come. Leadership is key."

GOLF REGIONALS: It's regional time for West Virginia high school golf. Regional tournaments for the three classes are scheduled Monday at courses around the state. In Class AAA, the Region IV tournament is at Greenhills Country Club in Ravenswood. Defending state champion Cabell Midland, Huntington High, Hurricane, Parkersburg, Parkersburg South, Ripley and Spring Valley are in the field.

The Class AA event is at Big Bend Golf Course and features Chapmanville Regional, Lincoln County, Logan, Man, Mingo Central, Nitro, Point Pleasant, Poca, Sissonville, Scott, Wayne and Winfield. In Class A, Buffalo, Parkersburg Catholic, Ravenswood, Sherman, Huntington St. Joseph, Tolsia, Tug, Valley, Wirt, Wahama and Williamstown tee it up at Mingo Bottom Golf Course.

The top two teams and top two players not on those two squads advance to the State Tournament scheduled Oct. 4-5 at Oglebay Resort in Wheeling. Parkersburg Country Club pro Scott Davidson is tournament director. Players get to walk the course Oct. 3 and get treated to a dinner that night.

Sectional play in Ohio starts this week, too. One Division II sectional is Tuesday at Portsmouth Elks Country Club. Portsmouth West, Wellston, Piketon, Gallia Academy, South Point, Portsmouth, Minford, Waverly, Ironton, Wheelersburg, River Valley, Fairland, Northwest and Rock Hill make up the field. One Division III sectional is Wednesday at Shawnee State Park. In the field are West Union, Whiteoak, Western, South Webster, Manchester, Valley, Chesapeake, North Adams, Clay, Coal Grove, Green, Portsmouth Notre Dame, Fairfield, Eastern and Peebles.


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