Gridiron Girls

Monday, October 4, 2010 - 3:54pm

Female players compete alongside the boys on two Arkansas varsity teams.

For many Friday night means just one thing: high school football.

In Arkansas' Pulaski County Special School District, there's not one, but two girls playing on varsity football teams.

"It's not about boys and girls, it's just about the game and what we are out here doing," said Mandi Norton.

A love of the game: it's what Jacksonville High Senior Sarah Moncrief and Mills High Junior Mandi Norton have in common, first and foremost.

Compared to their teammates, they're quite different: the only girls in a boys' game.

"I've always loved it and so I decided to do it, last chance," said Sarah.

For these ground-breakers, it took all kinds of guts, just to get up the courage.

"I didn't know how the guys would take it," Sarah said.

"It's not as hard as people make it seem, you just have to try and put your best foot forward," Mandi said.

"I'm old-school you could say, so having a female on the team was nothing I was looking forward to," said Mills' Coach Patrick Russell.

Both coaches had their reservations, special accommodations in equipment and locker rooms were made, but these girls proved their muscle.

"She trained, lifted weights and got bigger and stronger, excuse me, I better not say that for Sarah, she got stronger more agile," said Jacksonville Coach Rick Russell.

Now, they're just one of the guys.

"You have sometimes where you forget that she's a girl and you just treat her like another football player," said Shaleek Doe.

At least on the field they are; Mandi's boyfriend is number 51.

"He's proud of me and he supports me probably more than anyone else in my life except my dad," Mandi said.

Like other new players, they don't see a ton of game-time, but they have a new-found notoriety.

This was a first for both coaches. They say they are very proud of both Mandi and Sarah, but they say ultimately it would be better for girls to have their own league in the long-run.

Sarah and Mandi say other girls have approached them about joining next year, and they're all for it, so long as those girls take the sport seriously.

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