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More Girls Playing Football in 2020

Seawolves' Larson among larger contingent of girls playing high school football
Published: Nov. 2, 2020 at 9:54 PM EST
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - It certainly hasn’t been the 2020 season anyone would have predicted when champions were crowned in all three divisions last November in Rutland. The Coronavirus pandemic forced the state of Vermont to get creative, trading big hits for simple one-hand touches. And often Friday night lights for Tuesday afternoon Sunshine. But mixed in with all that, there has been a noticeable uptick in the number of braids and ponytails poking out of the back of helmets this Fall.

“I’ve been joking about joining a football team ever since I was in 8th grade," said Mariah Larson, a Burlington High School junior and receiver on the BHS-SBHS Seawolves. "Mr. Beck, who is one of the JV coaches, was sitting at my lunch table while I was joking about it, and he said I should join the team.”

Larson is just one of a rising number of girls, who decided this season to become one of the guys.

“It was a little bit awkward at first, just because they didn’t really know what i was doing there," Larson said. "They didn’t know if I was serious. But it’s definitely gotten better. A lot of them are kinda like my brothers.”

“She fits in really well," added Seawolves head coach Joe McDonald. "She does an awesome job in practice, she works really hard, works hard in the games. There’s nothing more I could really ask.”

McDonald says Larson isn’t the first girl to come through his programs over the years, but she is the first at her position.

“Three years ago, we had two actually play," he pointed out. "One was our kicker and she was the first girl to score actually in a game, but Mariah’s the first to be a receiver and be in the situation where she may actually score a touchdown.”

Now the obvious explanation for the increase in female football players this season stems from the change in rules from tackle to 7-on-7 touch, but Mariah says she was planning to play this season anyway and will continue under hopefully normal rules next Fall.

“We all want it to be tackle,” she said. "After I started I was a little hesitant, but as I’ve learned the game, and it’s fun, let’s bring on tackle.”

And McDonald doesn’t see this season as a one-off when it comes to the popularity of the sport among girls, as a rise in representation often fuels growth.

“These guys are all looking up to NFL players or college players," he said. "It’s the same thing. We have some females in the crowd, even though the crowds are pretty meager right now because they have to be, but there’s that interest for sure.”

“Well I hope with me being on the team shows girls that you can play football and it’s not a guys' thing even though society even though society has kind of made it a guys' thing," Larson added. "It’s a little intimidating at first but after a while it just kind of becomes normal and you just become one of them.”

Larson’s Seawolves take on Colchester in the regional semifinals Wednesday afternoon.

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