South Florida has fielded a 17-year-old believed to be the state's first female quarterback in a regular-season high school football game.
Erin DiMeglio, the pony-tailed varsity backup QB for the Paladins of South Plantation High School, has yet to throw a touchdown but has already grabbed local history by the face mask and shaken things up.
Yes, there are those out there who still wonder: Do females really have the right stuff for football?
I decided to see for myself. After watching them win their season opener, I requested to take a practice with team Bang Bang of Nova Southeastern University's co-ed flag football league. The team of graduate students in NSU's Masters of Occupational Therapy program is made up of several 20-something males and (twice as many) females.
The day we worked out, only one guy showed up — compared to five girls. I'm just saying.
On the field, I quickly noted nobody wore the pants on this team. That's because co-ed league rules require shorts. But you know what I mean.
I found myself lined up against the likes of Anne Marie "Animal" Popgoshev. Not sure the cultural origins of her surname, except that it must roughly translate to something like "Be Aggressive Always."
That's how Popgoshev plays. Every down. I tried to QB against her one-woman blitz and failed. Repeatedly. I could see in her eyes that she wanted to knock me into next Tuesday but pulled up on her cleats each time to honor the touch-only rules in effect during practices.
That doesn't mean it doesn't get physical. Utility player Jackie DePeralta busted her lip during a play. Wiped it. Kept playing. She also stepped up as a quarterback during practice, a cool-hand-Luke in motion.
I moved onto Danñiel Rosado. During Bang Bang's first game, it appeared she prefers to defend against the pass rush. But her true talent, in my humble opinion, may be passing the ball. At practice, anybody paying attention could see she tosses a spiral with the ease of someone born to football. A freakin' natural.
So I guess it's no coincidence she's the daughter of Dan Rosado, a former 280-pound guard who signed briefly with the Miami Dolphins in 1986 (the same year as Jim Browne) and later played center for the San Diego Chargers.
"Yeah, Dad encouraged us to play sports," said Rosado, a former Division I college soccer player for High Point University in North Carolina, who has two college athlete brothers. I point all this out to explain why Rosado and her genetically built-in speed had no problem defending my best attempts at button hook routes and receptions. She didn't even have the respect to break a sweat while covering me.
Rosado brushed off my comments that she should ask to line up as quarterback. Pull a DiMeglio. That's something I believe a guy would do. But she was fine with whatever position the team needed her at.
No controversy there.
Mina Pitello, on the other hand, has a secret. She wants to QB.
She said it several times during Bang Bang's season opener against a team made up of psychology students. Those psychologists maintained a 6-0 lead until late in the last half of the game. And Pitello was chomping at the bit.
Unfortunately for her, it appeared Bang Bang's strategy called for a male at quarterback. I asked why, nobody had an answer.
"I'll do it," Rosado said. "I can do it."
Tell your teammates, I told her. She didn't want to mess things up. But Pitello did send a subtle message. She asked Rosado to warm her up. Smart move. Bad move.
It was good that Pitello had no fear of taking the helm. Unfortunately, it became clear her passes wobble while Rosado's spin. Wobble. Spin. Off target. On target.
That's when I realized I had but one chance to make a difference on this team before I left. As many of my male athlete friends would have done in my position, I tried to stir up controversy. Get an old-fashioned quarterback war going.
Unfortunately, my efforts here were as poor as those on the field. The ladies were bent on getting along, doing what was best for Bang Bang, whether it meant stepping in as QB or stepping aside.
So, I was right. Football is a man's sport. And a woman's.
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