Taking the field as a female in WMass football - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Taking the field as a female in WMass football

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SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -

Western Mass has its share of high school female football players who want to set their own bar for success between the goal posts. They come in all different positions and skill levels and teams.

Take Taya Mathers, for example. She's a first year linebacker for Amherst Regional, and right now she has just one job and one job only.

"I'm not good with reading all the plays and stuff,' Taya Mathers said, "So, it's just like try and get through the line and just go for the ball."

Then there's Ashley Delgado, who coaches say has improved dramatically in just her second year for the Commerce Red Raiders.

"It's mostly guys, you don't see a lot of females," Delgado noted. "Now that the females are trying to things that the guys do, I think its a good thing I guess."

Ever been to a Holyoke game? You may have seen four-year middle linebacker Hayley Sweetman. Or, maybe Emily Wojnarowski splitting the uprights for South Hadley.

"I hope that I'm doing something good for the community by maybe opening up to other girls and say 'hey it's a guys sport, a girl can play too,'" Wojnarowski told us.

These are just four, but there are plenty more out there. And when they take the field, their gender is the last thing they're worried about.

"We tell her every day are you ready to kick us to a championship," said Scott Taylor, South Hadley's head football coach. "That's kind of the pressure we put her under being the kicker, and the kids are there to support her just like anyone else."

Coach Taylor has watched Emily's confidence grow with every kick even creating opportunities for her to play at the next level.

"I actually had a college ask me about her, who struggled last year, a Division III school."

It doesn't always come that easy though, especially for first year linebacker Taya Mathers, who coaches have had to push a little further to help speed up the process.

"I can be tough sometimes when I am correcting," said Chris Ehorn, Amherst Regional Head Football Coach, "and she's done a great job to just take it as it comes."

But the real concern comes from how their teammates and opponents handle a female on the field. Amherst Regional Athletic Director Richard Ferro worries about guys who naturally hesistate against a female athlete simply out of instinct.

"That in a collision sport can lead to somebody getting hurt themselves by holding up on a hit," Ferro added.

Taya says it has happened before, but hopes it won't happen going forward. "I don't want them to hold back because I want to be ready in case it happens during a game, and it's good that they don't, and sometimes the coaches have to [say] hit her."

Coach Taylor does the same for Emily, saying "She still goes through tackling drills because she had to make a tackle at Wahconah, and we put her through the same conditioning drills as anybody else."

These female players want just one thing: respect, on and off the field. Their teammates have their backs just like they're any other player.

"She's another player, like a sister," Johnny Moctezuma of Commerce said. "We're brothers, we bring her in as a sister."

"From my team, we never experienced any disrespect, but you do get some looks from the other team," said Hayley Sweetman of Holyoke.

With more and more female players, what does the future have in store for females carrying the pig skin? These girls say we can expect more and more each year.

"Females come up to me and ask me my opinion on it, they say I'm their motivation and their inspiration to do football, and now a lot of them want to do football," Ashley concluded.

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