2013-04-11 / Front Page

Girl goes extra yard and joins football

By Ben Meiklejohn
Staff Writer

Ashlee Moriarty Ashlee Moriarty BIDDEFORD – For 10-year old Ashlee Moriarty, extracurricular activities are a regular way of life. On top of her typical coursework as a Biddeford Intermediate School fifth-grader, Moriarty participates in chorus and drama, and works at Community Bicycle Center. She has been a lacrosse player, a cheerleader and a Bike Monkey – a member of an all-girls club that meets at the center. She enjoys reading and playing sports.

Her father, school committee member Bil Moriarty, said he expects his children to pick – not just one but several – extra-curricular activities each schoolyear. When Ashlee walked into his room one day to tell him what she had chosen for next year, Bil never expected what he heard.

“Dad, I want to play football.”

Ashlee was going the extra yard with extra-curricula.

Her family is familiar with football. Ashlee plays it with her cousins in the yard, and her uncle, Josh Edgerton, is a coach for the Biddeford Youth Football Association.

“I already knew that if I got my uncle (as coach), I wouldn’t get any special treatment,” Ashlee said.

A self-described tomboy, Ashlee is aware she may not get a warm welcome from boys she opposes, or even her teammates, when practice starts in August.

“I know one guy who will try to get me off the team,” she said. “Most boys don’t think that girls should play football.” As for her opponents, “It will probably be really embarrassing, a girl beating a man at football.”

However, the organization’s president, Brian Mawhinney, said that girls have participated in the past and been supported by their teammates.

“There was even a girl last year who was a quarterback,” said Mawhinney, “and she was quite good.”

After reading Amelia Earhart’s book, “The Last Flight,” Ashlee said she became inspired.

“I got the idea that it is OK for women to do what men can do,” she said.

Ashlee hopes to set an example for other girls who may want to participate in what are traditionally considered boys’ activities. A friend told her recently, “It would be really cool” to see her “get into bigger and bigger leagues.”

In February, Lauren Silberman became the first woman to try out for the NFL, as a kicker. Silberman performed poorly and was immediately injured, causing many to speculate her participation was a hoax. At the high school level however, Michael Burner, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association, said it’s not uncommon to have females playing on football teams, especially in schools with low numbers.

“You’d be surprised actually, at how many there are out there,” he said.

To compete with the boys, Ashlee has been practicing football with her father after school. She said she would rather play offense than defense, as either a running back or quarterback.

“I like it when I’m able to run around with the ball, keep it safe and dodge other players,” she said.

Bil said he will support Ashlee in whatever she wants to do, but he is still nervous – more than she is.

“I’m not worried about her playing because she’s amazing at whatever she does,” said Bil, “But I’m afraid she will get hurt.”

Ashlee, whose favorite teams are the Green Bay Packers and New England Patriots, said she knows not everyone will be as supportive as her father.

“I can’t win everyone over,” she said. “There are a lot of people out there.”

But they won’t be on the field – and that’s where Ashlee hopes to score the points that matter.

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