"I was hit hard on one play but got right up and tried to shove the guy out of bounds."
That was how Cassandra Patrick, a freshman at Mount Dora High School (MDHS), described the first hit she took during her inaugural junior varsity football game this season.
"I think it is great that Cassandra is playing football. When she is hit, purposefully, during practice or a game, she handles it and bounces right back. She never takes the 'I am a girl route' nor have the opposing teams targeted her for being a girl", said Soraya Lakatos, the high school's athletic director.
This 100 pound, lithe freshman looks more like a cross country runner or a dancer than a burly football player. "Cassandra makes up the difference with her agility, flexibility, endurance, and she is fast. Plus, some of the boys on the JV team haven't had their major growth spurt yet. Once she is in uniform and wearing her pads, it is hard to tell the difference between the boys and the lone girl on the field," said Lakatos.
In middle school, Patrick played flag football and was told she had a good arm and was tough and quick. That inspired her to try out for the quarterback position at MDHS. "Trying out for the team was a lot of fun. It focused on running plays and conditioning, stuff I like to do," she said.
Though she didn't make quarterback, Patrick did make the JV team. She alternates between playing corner back and wide receiver. So far this season, she has played one out of three games, and the team is undefeated. Lakatos noted, "The attitude among the football coaches is that they are not going to be soft on her and that everyone is to give their 100%."
Patrick already knew a number of her JV teammates because they had played flag football together in middle school. When asked how they behave toward her at practice, she responded, "The guys treat me like a sister; they don't treat me like a girl; they have no problem hitting me during practice."
Though her family is very proud of her decision to play football and to stick with it, Patrick acknowledged, "They do worry about me getting hurt." In spite of her family's concern, she would like to make the MDHS varsity team some day, and if she doesn't get hurt in high school, she would like to play college football.
When asked if she wants to pursue a sports-related major in college, Patrick quickly responded, "I want to be an author."
"You should start a blog about your football experiences," Lakatos jumped in and suggested.
As for girls' reaction to her playing football, Patrick said, "The response is usually, ' Wow! Really? That is so cool."
Her advice to other young women who would like to play high school football is, "If you want to go for it, do it as long as you are having fun,' " and Cassandra Patrick is definitely following her own advice.