Cougars football team welcomes female athlete

EBEN JUNCTION — We hear the phrase “you hit like a girl” fairly often. But what if that girl can knock you flat on your back? Girls playing high school football isn’t as uncommon as you think, but one local girl wants to make sure she isn’t the last.

“My mom, she’s like “Alright go ahead and play football, if that’s something you want to do.” And my dad said “Well I’m going to tell you that this isn’t a sport that you’ve ever done before. It’s going to be hard and they’re going to hit you hard because you’re a girl,” lineman Maezie Nettleton said.

When she was in 8th grade, Nettleton was involved in track, cross country and volleyball. But her focus turned to playing football in high school, despite the fact that she had never played it before.

“I was working with her and she brought up the idea of eventually playing football. It’s something we hear a lot, girls talking about coming out and playing, and encouraged it but at the same time, I just expected that I wouldn’t see her,” head coach Sam Eggleston said.

But after spring practices and seeing in the weight room during the summer, the team began to realize she wasn’t just trying this out.

“She didn’t miss a beat. She just kept sticking with it. From start to finish, she’s definitely surprised me so far,” said Eggleston.

Through just over a week of practice, her teammates have taken notice of Nettleton and they are excited to have her on the team.

“She’s really good actually. When you get her angry, she plows. She’s great to have around, fun and great to talk to,” linebacker Austin Swetich said.

“When we got to our hitting day, she killed a lot of us. She’s going to be a really good addition to the team. Hopefully, she sticks with it. She’s really impressed us and the coaches,” said tight end Kyle Hemminger.

“At first, it seemed like they were a little shy to hit me as hard as they could. But I think then they realized that I needed to be hit hard because I’m going to be hit hard in games,” Nettleton said.

The Cougars do have a history of girls playing on the football team, but rarely do they stay the entire season. Nettleton wants to do that, but for her entire high school career.

“As she continues throughout her career, we’re hoping that she opens that door and makes Superior Central football more of non-gender-specific sport and everyone’s welcome. That’s exactly how we want to approach it,” said Eggleston.

“Just want to show that, it doesn’t matter your gender. If you want to do something, do it. If there’s a sport that’s typically male and you want to do it and you’re female, go ahead and hop right in there and play that sport,” Nettleton said.

She says she’s very nervous for her first game next Friday at home against Ontonagon. But at least she knows she’ll have the support of her family, her friends and her fans that hope she continues to break gender stereotypes in the game of football.