'THE GIRL' IS A STAR Dana Galloway, 11, powers Hanlon Park into Pop Warner state semifinals


The star of the defending state Pop Warner football champions runs like a bull, hits like a train and likes to play with Barbie dolls.

Meet Dana Galloway, 11, captain of the Hanlon Park 49ers in northwest Baltimore. She stiff-arms defenders, sheds would-be tacklers and once dragged half a team the last 5 yards for a touchdown.

Her teammates, all boys, would rather not line up against Dana in practice.

"She took the wind out of me," says one.

Opponents have no choice.

"She's not afraid to mix it up with anybody," says her coach, Henry Sherod. "Dana hit one guy real hard last week, and he never came back in the game.

"Does she have a younger sister? I wish."

Hanlon Park won last week's game, 7-6, on Dana's late touchdown run, to advance to the state 9-to-11-year-old semifinals tomorrow against the Woodlawn Steelers. Kickoff is 4 p.m. at Cedar Lane Park in Columbia, off Route 108 in Howard County.

Dana leads Hanlon Park (6-1) in rushing and scoring. She also starts at middle linebacker.

"I've never seen her knocked backwards on defense," says assistant coach Jeremy Sherod. "Last week, the other team ran a trap play and a boy ran right into her.

"She swallowed him like a whale."

Barbie dolls? The girl could rip off Ken's head if she wanted.

Yet Dana, a sixth-grader at Old Court Middle School, enjoys more than football.

"She also likes having her hair done, when we can get the helmet off her," says her mother, Sheron Galloway.

Dana's headgear comes off immediately after each game, coach's orders.

"I tell her to remove the helmet, shake her hair and let the other team know who beat them," says Henry Sherod. "There are always some surprised faces."

Last year, in the playoffs, an opposing coach was overheard saying, "We've got this one in the bag -- their best player is a girl."

Dana raced 37 yards on the game's first play.

"I don't look at her as a female. She's a player," says Henry Sherod. "But it's nice to hear the other team's fans saying, 'The girl is beatin' up on you.' "

"The Girl." That's Dana's moniker in the Hanlon Park League. Of the 200,000 youngsters nationally who play Pop Warner football, fewer than 1,000 are female. Most are girls between the ages of 7 and 10 who drop out before they reach Dana's age, says John Butler, executive director of the 64-year-old organization.

Girls are generally "very well accepted" in the Pop Warner program, where they have been playing for more than a decade, says Butler.

Usually, the girls are running backs or wide receivers. "A good one makes a great secret weapon," he says.

Dana has rushed for 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns, including one 83-yard run on which she changed direction three times, sweeping outside, then cutting back toward the middle of the field before racing down the sideline.

At 5 feet 6 and 118 pounds, Dana is the biggest player on her team. Most of her 20 carries per game are power runs.

"She gets great blocking," says her father, Jesse Galloway.

It wasn't always so, says Dana, whose football debut three years ago was challenged by several players who blocked for her halfheartedly, at best. The Girl was the first to ever play for Hanlon Park.

"It took about four games for them to accept me," she says.

"It was like the boys were saying, 'Girls aren't supposed to be playing football,' " says Henry Sherod. "But she gained their respect. By the end of that year, fans were asking for Dana's autograph.

"Now, she's just like American Express. We don't leave home without her."

The Girl has turned the corner. They're still talking about the game in which Dana sparked a rally by scoring and raising her arms, Rocky-style, in the end zone.

"Three years ago, Dana was a girl. Now she's a football player who happens to be a girl," says Wes Johnson, chairman of the Hanlon Park League.

Dana wears regulation gear, including the protective cup required of all players. The only concession to her sex are the special shoulder pads that protect her breasts.

She is the second in her family to play Pop Warner football. Her brother, Sean, 15, is on the varsity at Milford Mill High. Her sister, Tiffany, 14, skipped football but hopes to play baseball at Milford next spring.

Dana's success has led several younger girls to join the Hanlon Park program. But her own career is waning. Basketball beckons; so does track. A long jumper, Dana qualified for the Junior Olympics last year with a 14-foot leap.

Besides, she's growing up. At present, the only boy she has a crush on is Marcus Allen, star runner for the Kansas City Chiefs.

"Dana is starting to develop physically, plus the boys are getting bigger, and football doesn't offer that kind of protection for girls," says her father. "I think this will be her last year."

Then, he says, The Girl should have time to clean her room.

"It's a wreck," he says. "It looks like she plays football in it."

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