Hash mark heroines

Published 3:18 pm Tuesday, October 21, 2014

CHRIS HILL | CONTRIBUTED PIGTAILS UNDER CENTER: Chocowinity quarterback Maggie Craig prepares to receive the snap from center Carleigh Findley in last week’s Thursday night game against Bath.

PIGTAILS UNDER CENTER: Chocowinity quarterback Maggie Craig prepares to receive the snap from center Carleigh Findley in last week’s Thursday night game against Bath.


Two eighth graders at Chocowinity Middle School are challenging the model of what it means to be a football player.

This season, a precedent has been established that contradicts the male-dominated, egotistical football clichés present in the sport at all levels. Two girls are not just taking to the gridiron for the Indians, but contributing at arguably two of the most difficult and demanding skill positions.

Indians’ center Carleigh Findley and quarterback Maggie Craig readied at the line of scrimmage in the second half of Thursday’s game against Bath — the team just five yards away from the end zone. Findley snapped the ball to Craig, who rolled out on a designed bootleg play. Instead of passing it, she made a break towards the pylon. And for just the second time this season, the Indians offense crossed the goal line.

“She trucked the guy and got in,” said head coach Chris Hill. “Everybody got emotional. It was very rewarding as a coach.”

The Indians went on to defeat the Pirates, 28-8, on the back of Craig’s TD run and two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the first half.

A female center snapping the ball to a female quarterback, sporting a ponytail, may not be the most conventional or traditional football scene, but it’s a setup Hill believes gives the Indians the best chance to win, on and off the field.

“We don’t wear jerseys on game day. We dress up, the guys wear ties and the girls wear dresses. They look very lady like,” Hill said. “It’s amazing the transformation when they put their uniform on — they become football players, but you would never know it outside of football.”

Findley, a two-year starter on the offensive line, was the only girl to go out for the team prior to last season. Hill considers her a leader and vital piece to the Indians’ undefeated season in 2013.

“She will sack you like a pancake,” Hill said. “She will not back down from anybody. She has no fear. It’s unusual for a girl to be like that.”

Her success story attracted a handful of other girls to come out for the team this season, though only one, Craig, made the roster. With no experienced quarterbacks on the depth chart, Hill gave Craig the chance at earning the starting role. In the end, however, Hill decided to divvy up the playing time between her and a teammate.

Ultimately, Hill had to determine more than just minutes with his two girls on the roster, but the logistics in keeping them on the team. How other teams would react? How would his players take to having a female quarterback? Where would they get dressed? What if they were injured? These were all questions that arose at some point.

A girls’ bathroom in the field house was transformed into a makeshift locker room for Craig and Findley. A code phrase — “ladies in the house!” — was implemented to make sure the pair is respected during pre- and postgame locker room pep talks. Not only has everything gone according to the plan (and the rules), but Hill also says the girls are applauded for their efforts after every game by their peers.

“These girls are extremely competitive with an internal drive to succeed,” Hill said. “It doesn’t matter what they’re doing, whether it’s sports, academics, they’re just very driven individuals.”

Next year, Craig and Findley will become Southside Seahawks, although their status as football players will likely be in question. There are only about 2,000 high school girls playing football nationwide, according to a recent article by Yahoo.com. The numbers may not be in the girls’ favor, but their head coach believes they have what it takes to perform at the next level.

“Are they going to be welcomed to play? I don’t know. Can they do it physically and hold their own? Yes. I have no doubt that both of them could easily start on JV next year if they choose to,” he said.

The Indians travel to Greenville tomorrow to take on Saint Peters, although Craig’s status is questionable, due to a minor injury.

Craig and Findley, along with the rest of the eighth grade football players, will be honored next week during the middle school’s version of Senior Night, when the Indians rematch against the Pirates in Chocowinity.