No sooner had the football sailed through the uprights than Molly Mortensen was backing up for a longer field-goal attempt.
This one was from 40 yards – certainly long enough to catch a few more curious glances from Franklin Pierce High School players and coaches who took a quick minute in between plays at a practice this week to watch their new kicker.
Mortensen took her steps. She pivoted. She planted. And she swung her right leg through the football.
A team manager standing underneath the crossbar didn’t wait to see where the kick landed. He knew. And he raised his hands to signal the field goal was good.
For much of the past decade, a Mortensen has earned the starting varsity place-kicking duties for the Cardinals – Dirk (2004-07), Celina (2008), Megan (2011-12) and now Molly, who is a junior.
“They’re all soccer (style) kickers,” Franklin Pierce coach Howard Lutton said. “You’ve got to hit the sweet spot and drive that ball – and they’ve all done that fairly consistently for us.”
The family place-kicking lineage was born not on the bouncy artificial turf at Franklin Pierce Stadium but on the high grass field at Ford Middle School. They also played other positions there.
“I played safety, wide receiver, kicker and I even played some running back,” Molly said. “They named a play after me – the ‘Molly Fly Sweep 27.’ ”
Dirk was the first to play football at Franklin Pierce. He was big (6-foot-3, 235 pounds), so he also played on the defensive line. But he was best at kicking, being selected twice to the all-South Puget Sound League 3A team. His longest field goal was a 49-yarder.
Soon after he graduated, Dirk found out the first of three sisters – Celina – wanted to leave the Cardinals’ girls soccer squad and join the football team.
“I knew my sister always enjoyed watching me, but following suit was definitely a surprise,” said Dirk, who played at Pacific Lutheran University in 2010. “I think she wanted to stir the pot a little bit.”
Celina set a good example in her one season of football. Not only did she convert 31 point-after-touchdown kicks, she also made a tackle in kickoff coverage that has gone down in the YouTube annals. It is called the “Pile Driver” segment.
After a White River kick returner broke through the line and headed down the right
sideline, Celina – the only player remaining to defend the Cardinals’ end zone – ran over, jumped in the air and laid him out.
“It looked better than it was,” Celina said. “I knew a couple (of) kids from White River, and word got back to me the next day when they watched film, they made that poor kid watch (that hit) seven times.”
Of the sisters, Megan is the career leader in PAT kicks, with 35. She has also made one field goal, a 21-yarder, last season as a senior.
Molly Mortensen made her varsity football debut last Friday in Franklin Pierce’s 48-20 victory over Hazen. She made four of six PAT kicks. And it did not take long for her to get involved in the action.
After the Cardinals scored a quick touchdown, Mortensen kicked off. A Hazen returner broke away from the pack and headed right for her.
“Oh my goodness, I wasn’t expecting him to get to me,” Mortensen said. “I immediately went to my soccer instincts in which when someone is coming to the ball, you give that person space and then make the tackle when the time is right. But here, that wasn’t going to happen – I had to go and tackle him because he wasn’t going to try and dribble around me.”
Just like sister Celina, she made the tackle.
While Mortensen’s debut marked a bit of history, a girl kicking in high school football is not unprecedented.
It is thought that the first girl to kick in high school was Theresa Dion, who played for Mary Immaculate High School in Florida in 1972.
Other sister tandems have kicked in high school. In what was thought to be a first, Mallory (2003) and Taylor (2004) Chapman kicked for different schools in Michigan.
But before last Friday, never had three sisters kicked for an 11-player varsity program.
It might not be the last time it happens. Girls participating in football is growing, up 33 percent nationwide over the past five years, according to data released by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NHFS).
And they are not just trying out for kicker. Last season, Florida teenager Erin DiMeglio became the first girl to play quarterback in a varsity game for South Plantation High School.
Being part of a football record book is the furthest thing from Mortensen’s mind. Training year-round with Federal Way FC, she knows her future is in college soccer.
“I can kick a PAT with my left foot and my right foot,” Mortensen said. “That is a useful skill in soccer.”
Football is enjoyable, Mortensen said, just like playing on the girls basketball team at Franklin Pierce, and being a multi-event standout in track and field.
More important, football is one of many activities that keep her involved in school. She is the junior class treasurer, plays baritone saxophone in jazz ensemble and is involved in planning pep assemblies – which sometimes means she’s asking teammates to get to school early to greet students and get them excited about games.
“They do not discriminate because I am a girl,” Mortensen said. “But at the same time as treating me like a teammate, they treat me like a lady. They try and not use profanity around me.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles