'Sign me up, I'm doing it.'  Girls play kicker, linebacker for the high school soccer team

‘Sign me up, I’m doing it.’ Girls play kicker, linebacker for the high school soccer team

INDIANAPOLIS – Tanner Berry takes about half a second to respond when asked what he likes most about playing football.

“Hit,” she said. “It helps to cope with the situation. On hitting days, I can get it all out.”

Berry, who was listed at 5-5 and 145 pounds (and that’s probably stretching him both ways), is a freshman linebacker at Park Tudor High School in Indianapolis. He has been playing American football since he was 6 years old. Berry may not look like a center back, but he plays like one. In a recent junior varsity game against Lapel (Indiana) High School, he snatched the ball from the running back and went the other way.

“I saw the ball come out and I started ripping it up,” Berry said. “Next thing you know, I’m running across the field. I’m not the fastest, so they caught me before I got to the end zone. But I have a forced fumble. I have a couple of forced fumbles.”

Berry is just one of two girls playing on the Park Tudor soccer team this season. Sophomore Paige Dill is a starting defender on Park Tudor’s 11-0-1 women’s soccer team that is ranked #1 in Class A.

DO NOT MISS IT: Sign up to get sports news and features delivered to your inbox

Last year, Park Tudor football coach Spencer Summerville mentioned to Dill that the football team would need a kicker this season. Dill, at first, wasn’t sure if Summerville was serious. Once he confirmed that he was, he mulled it over.

“It wasn’t a resounding ‘yes,'” he said. “I always put it aside. Then my soccer teammates would come up and say, ‘Oh, that’s great, you’re going to kick. So at the end of last year, I was like, ‘OK, Summerville, sign me up, I’ll do it.'”

Dill’s top sports priority in the fall is soccer. She practices with the soccer team, then joins the soccer team to work on special teams at the end of practice.

But kicking is more than a hobby for Dill. She took it seriously over the summer, and she’s a pretty good kicker. She is 21-for-23 on extra point attempts on the season and has the leg to make a 45-yard field goal in practice.

‘She is not ‘good’ for a girl. She is just good.

“She’s not ‘good for a girl,'” said kicking coach Mark Hagee, who has been working with Dill for several weeks. “She is just good. She is very good, very soft. She doesn’t have to work hard to kick it away. Most of the kids her age are kicking off the tee. She’s kicking the ground, which is kind of shocking. Most guys aren’t kicking that far at her age.”

Berry and Dill play different positions and have dramatically different football backgrounds. Berry played boys’ teams in the Tab youth program growing up, then in high school for Park Tudor when he attended Paramount. Dill had never played football before this season.

Having another girl on the team is comforting for both Berry and Dill.

Paige Dill, a sophomore kicker for the Park Tudor Panthers men’s varsity soccer team and starting linebacker for the women’s soccer team, practices her kicks with teammates Adam Verma holding the ball and Nolan Whitehead throwing the ball.

“At first it was like, ‘Oh, another girl, that’s great,’” Dill said. “We’ve talked about a lot of things and it was good to have someone else in the locker room with me as we’re the only girls. She is very nice and has much more experience in soccer than me. I think it’s great that we’re both out here doing it.”

Summerville, in his fourth year as Park Tudor coach, said the two girls are a crowd favorite, even among the school’s student population. Summerville believes in inclusion on the soccer team, regardless of gender. In his first year as Park Tudor coach, he asked Gracie Krouse, then a teacher at Park Tudor and a former Harvard varsity rugby player, to join his coaching staff and help teach the team the tackling style. of rugby

Krouse, at first, thought Summerville was joking. “I said, ‘Hey, if you’re not kidding, can we be more serious?’” Krouse said.

She joined the staff and coached for two years at Park Tudor before working as a teacher in Indonesia, where she is now.

“It was my first experience as a coach,” Krouse said. “I learned a lot from Spencer and the other trainers on staff. They were also very kind, respectful and collaborative. It gave me the opportunity to teach the players how to play rugby and I would let them know if I saw anything during drills. It was a great opportunity for me.”

Soccer has opened doors

Berry, who wants to play soccer in college and potentially in the pro league of the Women’s Soccer National Conference, said soccer has opened doors for her. She said the transition to high school football at Park Tudor has been “pretty easy.”

“It helps me make friends,” Berry said. “He helped me get to Park Tudor and one of the reasons I discovered Park Tudor. The team here has been very welcoming.”

Tanner Berry, (43), a rookie linebacker who was named to the WNFC All-Star Showcase and has 4 varsity tackles this year, right, drills with teammates on Sept. 14.

Tanner Berry, (43), a rookie linebacker who was named to the WNFC All-Star Showcase and has 4 varsity tackles this year, right, drills with teammates on Sept. 14.

She knows what it is to feel unwelcome. She said that she played for a coach in a youth league outside of Tab who would deliberately match her in drills against older, stronger players.

“I realized that he didn’t like me as a player or as a person,” she said. “He put me in dangerous situations. But I got out of there.”

Berry, who was inducted into the WNFC all-star showcase last summer, has four varsity tackles this season.

“She has a very high football IQ because she’s played so much,” Summerville said of Berry. “She played for the Midwest Colts, who teach the fundamentals and emphasize good football from the ground up. If she can get bigger, stronger and faster, she will have the same opportunities as anyone else and find her way to more prominent roles. She has the opportunity.”

Dill does too. She already overcame a big play in Park Tudor’s 47-42 comeback win over Traders Point Christian two weeks ago when the Panthers recovered her onside kick late in the fourth quarter and turned it into a game-winning touchdown.

“I was nervous about it,” Dill said. “I don’t even remember what was going through my mind. But he wasn’t thinking, ‘If I screw this up, we’re going to lose.’ I kicked it like a soccer ball. But it worked. And after the game I said, ‘If we hadn’t gotten that side kick, we wouldn’t have won.’

Dill made his first tackle Friday in Park Tudor’s 34-20 loss at Cincinnati Country Day. But the highlight of his season might be more than just a kick or a tackle.

“I was walking out on the field to kick at halftime (of a home game) and a person came up to me and said, ‘My daughter loves watching you kick,’” Dill said. “Not that I have to be a role model, but maybe someone who sees me or Tanner will make them want to play, too.”

Kyle Neddenriep is a high school sports reporter for the Indianapolis Star. Follow him on Twitter @KyleNeddenriep.

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: High School Football: Kicker, Linebacker on Indiana Team

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.