Antioch girl plays guard on varsity football team
"Emmerling!" yelled Antioch High School football coach Brian Glashagel.
The offensive guard came running up and stood beside him.
"You're in," he said, and she rushed onto the field with the rest of the offensive unit.
Senior Sandra Emmerling plays on the varsity football team as a guard. She is one of the few girls in the U.S. to play in the predominantly male sport, according to the National Federation of High School Associations.
While most girls choose to play in the less contact-oriented positions, like kicker and wide receiver, according to coach Glashagel, Emmerling plays in the trenches, blocking the biggest guys of the opposing team.
"I've loved football since I was little. I always watched it with my dad," said Emmerling. "This year, I thought, 'I'm going to try it and, if I like it and I if I have time to do it, then I'm going for it.'"
After talking with Glashagel the previous year, he told her she could join and explained what it would take to participate. He gave her exercises, plays and drills to work on over the summer, as well as a helmet and shoulder pads.
Glashagel described how several girls over the years had asked to play but none of them actually came out to practice.
"I was skeptical because I've had girls say they wanted to play, but it never panned out," said Glashagel. "It's awesome. The newness of it, especially with the players and the coaches, kind of wore off. It's at the point now that it's accepted and no big deal."
The coaches evaluated her skills and looked at what was best for her and the team, and they decided that she would play offensive guard.
Emmerling is the shortest player on the team at 5 feet, 4 inches and weighing 159 pounds, and sometimes she is a little intimidated by some of the other players. But when it's game time, she is ready.
"I've got a lot of power in me, and when I get on the field it doesn't scare me. I'm ready to play and I've got so much adrenaline rushing through me," Emmerling said.
She says all of her teammates have been very supportive and that she hasn't had one bad experience.
Her friend and teammate, running back Griffin Hill, confirmed her assertions.
"I actually think it's pretty cool for someone to have the courage and go out and do that," Hill said. "She's just like another person on the team."
As game day approaches, she is excited about the thought of playing. She realizes she is the only girl on the field and feels it is amazing to be competing against boys who don't know about her.
During a recent home game against North Chicago on a cool autumn night, Emmerling's name was called and she had an opportunity to play. After the huddle broke, Emmerling rushed to the line and crouched into her stance. The ball was snapped and she held her own against a bigger defensive lineman while the running back ran around the end and gained a few yards.
"It was just amazing," Emmerling said. "To go out on that field and then hearing the play called. I made that block and I just felt so great to know that I could do it and that I had come so far."
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