TAMPA — Girls playing full contact high school football in Pasco County isn’t an unheard story.
In the past six years, there have been two girls that participated as kickers on the varsity football programs: Courtney Cohen for Gulf in 2007 and Tara Marshall for Land O’ Lakes in 2010.
On Gulf’s junior varsity team this season, the Buccaneers don’t have just one girl playing football, but two. Sophomores Brittney Pressler and Keyvona Slaughter play JV football at Gulf, and for coach Jason Messamore, it’s a new experience for the first-year coach.
“It’s kind of a tough situation when you have 55 boys and one or two girls on a football team,” Messamore said. “The main thing is to have the boys understand that the girls are a part of the team and they’re to be treated as one of the guys. They’re expected to do all the stretches, workouts and drills.”
Some may think Pressler and Slaughter are out to play football for a game jersey to wear to school on Thursdays. The two denote that notion and have been contributors to the team. Pressler, who also plays softball, kicks and is starting to get reps at other positions and Slaughter, who has scoliosis, has been also practicing at various positions.
“Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, since you are girls, the guys are going to hit you harder’ and all these other things, but none of it is true,” Slaughter said. “We’re all like brothers and sisters almost. Its not what I expected and I mean that in a good way.”
With the JV season eight games long, Pressler and Slaughter looked into joining the football team and decided they would join the squad together. Not only did the two friends want to join because they love playing, but to prove a point to all the guys about girls playing tackle football.
“I’ve always wanted to go out for football but my parents would say, ‘No, don’t get hurt for softball,’ which is my main sport,” Pressler said. “I said I could just go out for kicker and a couple other positions. We wanted to prove that girls can play football and not just guys.”
Correspondent Andy Villamarzo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @avillamarzo.