JV football player tackles gender barrier 

Freshman+Sadie+Hansell%2C+number+2%2C+talks+with+teammate+David+Franco%2C+a+freshman%2C+during+the+Oct.+8+game+against+Berean+High+School+where+she+made+several+tackles.+Hansell+plays+defensive+back%2C+safety%2C+and+corner.

Devayani Batra

Freshman Sadie Hansell, number 2, talks with teammate David Franco, a freshman, during the Oct. 8 game against Berean High School where she made several tackles. Hansell plays defensive back, safety, and corner.

Devayani Batra , Staff Writer

Editor’s note: On May 19 2022, this article won a Lesher Award. It won 2nd place in the sports category. 

In the third quarter of Northgate’s junior varsity football game Oct. 8 against College Park High School, a decisive Northgate defensive play contributed to stopping the CP offense, drawing a small cheer in the stands.

“Tackle by Sadie Hansell,” the announcer’s voice boomed over the small but growing crowd on the evening of Homecoming.   

When the drive ended and the defensive team ran to the sideline, number 2 hustled off the field clad in the team red and gold jersey and protective pads but with a differentiating feature:  blond brown hair tied back in a ponytail. 

The freshman was the only girl on either of Northgate’s football teams for the 2021 season. Hansell has been playing flag football ever since first grade and this is her first year playing tackle football. She has enjoyed playing football along with three other sports since a very young age and began training with the football players over the summer before her freshman year. 

Most female players play the position of a kicker and don’t get into too much, if any, physical contact with other players. For the Broncos, Hansell played multiple positions, including safety and corner. 

Junior varsity football players from left sophomore John Ward, freshmen Sadie Hansell, Amillian Coleman, Eytan Juergens, Jayden Kim, Blayne Ballard and Owen Mayer enjoyed a 6-3 season record.

“Sadie instantly connected with the other players, there was no tension, because basically everyone was okay with it,” said teammate Brandon Johnson, a freshman. “She was an inspirational figure, especially for young women.”

A search for statistics of United States high school football players showed for 2018-19, the most recent year available, that of about 1 million players 2,400 of them were girls. The number of girls in the sport had doubled in the past 10 years.

In November 2020, Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller made history in kicking off against Missouri. A soccer goalie, she was drafted to the program when Vanderbilt was down players who were out with Covid-19.

Although Sadie loved playing football, she is also a competitive year round soccer player and both sports’ practices conflicted, so she missed some playing time at games, she said.

 

Varsity Coach Ben Ballard said this was the fourth time in his coaching career a girl has played on a football team in his program and he said he was pleased. The only challenge aspect was arranging for a locker room for her at away games, he said.

“She’s a good player, she does her thing,” he said. “She had practice for another team, but if she had been here she would have played more.” 

The team beat College Park on that Homecoming evening 28-8 with touchdowns from freshman running back Eytan Juergens, freshman corner Reid Lawrence who scored on an interception, and two from  freshman quarterback Blayne Ballard. The team ended in November with a 6-3 record.

Hansell said the season was positive as a team and for her, personally.

“I think 99% of the team liked me, and everyone is pretty cool,” Hansell said, adding that she is considering playing next year. When asked if she had anything else to add, she said she did: “I wish Feao Saluni and Allison Ghorban would join the team next year,” she said with a smile, issuing a challenge to some friends.