Shoulder pads, cleats and grass-stained uniforms usually bring to mind sweaty boys playing football, but this past season, two Bulloch County girls tackled and kicked field goals along with the boys.
Eden Bragg and Harley Mobarry both decided they were tough enough to do battle on the field, and each enjoyed doing so, they said. Their mothers may have been concerned, but after a fun-filled season, they realized their little girls could "hang with the boys."
Eden Bragg said she asked to play football because "I wanted to tackle," The 7-year-old from Portal played on the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department's Iowa Hawkeyes team at Portal Recreational Park. Her older brother played football, and Eden wanted to as well, said mother Rachel Deal Bragg.
"They were on the same team," she said. "They played baseball in the spring, and she begged me to do it. She convinced me she really wanted to."
Eden said she loves the game.
"I like making touchdowns," she said.
She said the boys don't pick on her, and she looks forward to playing next year.
Her mother, however, said she did hear a little ribbing from some boys, but it didn't affect Eden, who played just as hard as they did.
Eleven-year-old Haley Mobarry played on the Recreation Department's Michigan Wolverines team at Nevils Recreational Park.
"It's really fun. All I do is tackle," she said, adding she plays on the defensive line. "I wanted to try something new, I liked it and kept on doing it."
It was a big change from cheerleading, which she participated in before, said Tiffany Pollett, her mother.
Sometimes the boys comment on a girl being on the team, but Harley handles it well, she said.
"Cheerleading wasn't her thing so she asked and signed up to play. She holds her own. She is tougher than most of the boys on the team."
Harley has had parents of other team members shake her hand, and other girls say they are inspired by her, Pollett said.
"She encourages them to play."
When some boys joke with her and ask why she plays football, Harley said she answers: "Because I want to. I sacked the quarterback three times, and they didn't say anything then."
She hopes other girls will step up and play next year.
Sherrie Zeigler with the Recreation Department said girls playing football and other traditionally boys-only sports isn't usual, but "We have had them (girls) play before.
Girls have played flag football for a while now, but some females have chosen to play tackle football, she said.
"I'm surprised we don't have more playing," she said. "It's a growing trend, and I'd like to see more girls play."
The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department offers a youth football program for ages 5 to 12, with both flag football and tackle football leagues. The football program runs September through October.
For more information access Internet website: http://www.bullochrec.com/football/
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414