Girls won’t be girls |

Girls won’t be girls

Paul Andrew

Provided to the Tahoe Daily Tribune Jennifer Lusk, left, and Melisa Hart of Mineral County High School in Hawthorne are starting their second season of football at Whittell High on Saturday.

Don’t anybody tell the Hawthorne High School football team that they play like girls. When the Serpents line up against Whittell on Saturday, two girls will be in the starting lineup for Hawthorne.

Seniors Melisa Hart and Jennifer Lusk each enter their second year of football as significant members of the Hawthorne varsity team. Both girls overcame many obstacles to participate in what is usually viewed as a “boys only” sport.

Hart, a fast, lanky wide receiver and defensive back, credits her success to hard work, dedication and never giving up.

“A lot of people tried to talk us out of it initially, but we had the mindset to make the team,” Hart said.

A lifelong football fan, Hart grew up playing football on her front lawn and always loved watching the sport. Instead of playing volleyball, basketball or cheerleading like other girls, she was driven to make football her sport.

“Just because you are a girl, it doesn’t mean that you can’t accomplish something that you put your mind to,” she said.

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Initially, some teammates made it difficult for her.

“At the first practice, the seniors had the biggest guy hit me. I wasn’t sure that I would ever get off the ground. After I finally got up, I was accepted,” Hart said.

Opponents made her first year especially rough at times. Trying to get into her head, they said things like, “Girls can’t play!” or “You don’t belong here.”

Hart didn’t let any of the trash talk get to her, usually walking away.

“A couple of times I felt like quitting because of things people said, but I refused to give up,” she said.

Recalling her first tackle, she said it was “the greatest feeling I’ve ever had.” Highlights from last season include three tackles against Lovelock and 15 receptions.

Playing football as a girl also had its lighter moments.

“One guy asked me on a date after I hit him. I couldn’t believe it,” said Hart.

“I tackled a Rite of Passage player last weekend at the jamboree who apparently isn’t dealing with it well,” laughed Hart, whose mother Tamara works at ROP. “Some guys have a difficult time being hit by a girl.”

Lusk, a starting defensive lineman, had an equally successful first season. More accepted because of her lineman’s build, Lusk recorded three quarterback sacks during the season – most likely a girl’s national record.

Both girls are looking forward to the season, although they will be sad to see it end.

“I am hoping to score a touchdown this season,” Hart said. “I don’t know if a girl has ever scored a touchdown in a high school game before.”

If fans attending Saturday’s 2 p.m. game at Whittell’s Zephyr Cove field, witness either No. 82 Hart or No. 74 Lusk celebrating a touchdown in the end zone, they could be part of history.

“They had some girls on that team last year,” said Whittell coach Dennis Young. “My guys don’t care if they play against girls. They just play like they normally would.”

The girls hope their football careers don’t end after high school. “After the military, I would like to either play in college, or in the women’s football league,” Hart said.

With the heart and desire that these young women have displayed, you wouldn’t want to bet against them.