Whitney JV welcomes the girl of fall

Wildcats’ manager steps up
By: Jim Linsdau, Sports Editor
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These days, it isn’t all that intriguing to hear of girls playing for a high school football team. But what is intriguing is when a team asks a particular girl to put on the pads and help out.

That’s what happened to Kaylee Brianna Hicks when coaches and players for the Whitney junior varsity football team ask her to join the team. The sophomore was already serving as the Wildcats’ manager but when the offensive line began losing players they needed her to fill in.

“Last year, they were bugging me too,” said Hicks of the team’s request. “I was like, ‘naah.’ I saw the guys last year, they were big. This year, they weren’t that big so I said, ‘OK.’”

At 5-foot 3-inches, the Whitney co-ed isn’t that intimidating but she is no stranger to football. A resident of Lincoln, she credits her stepfather Mike Orren for introducing her and supporting her in football, as well as other sports.

When younger, Hicks said she and her stepfather would watch football together and he would explain to her what was going on. Over time, she decided she wanted to play the game and joined youth football. She played for four years and concluded her tenure with the Lincoln Jr. Zebras four years ago.

No. 51 said she does have a tomboy streak in her but in reality she is an athlete and loves playing sports. She plans to play rugby after football and is a member of the Wildcats’ softball team.

“My problem is I get really competitive. So whatever I do I go full out,” Hicks said. “I get mad if I don’t play and if I’m playing no one’s going to mess with me.”

The former team manager didn’t suit up this year until about midseason. She was content being on the sidelines but could see the JV ‘Cats needed help. Since joining the team, Whitney’s JV has won three-straight.

As an offensive tackle, she’s probably not the sole reason for that. But in last week’s victory over Cordova, she was named the offensive line player of the week. She also earned a helmet sticker for her efforts in practice.

“She’s been great. She stepped in,” said offensive line coach Andy Stoll. “[S]he’s doing a great job and never complains. She always shows up for practice every day early and so I have nothing but great things to say about her.”

Her teammates seem to feel the same way. Hicks came in to help shore up an offensive line that was down to three players. Stoll said some players had to be moved to other positions because of injuries and other factors.

Wide receiver Ruben Avina has been playing football for seven years and knew Hicks when she played youth football. He said he had no doubt she could do the job. He said as a fellow athlete she was a capable as anyone else out there.

Blake Garrett, a first-year lineman, said he was surprised at how hard Hicks could hit.

“I depend on her. I trust her,” Garrett said. “I tell her what player to hit and she can do it. She really doesn’t need my help.”

In spite of being a fierce competitor, the ‘Cats co-ed makes no pretense that she isn’t all-girl as well. She said off the field she puts the tomboy aside and becomes one of the girls.

“I’ve got two sides to me,” said Hicks. “I’ve got my athletic side where I’m in the game and no one’s going to bug me. And then I’ve got my girlie side where I’ll say, ‘Let’s go shopping, let’s get our nails done.’”

She also downplays the idea of getting hurt. She said she has gotten bumps and bruises but never a serious injury. She said it’s rare players get seriously hurt unless they’re doing something stupid. With the focus Hick’s maintains when in the game there’s little chance she’s going to do anything stupid.

However, she said her parents did have some misgivings when she told them she was going to put on the pads again. Even her stepfather was a bit concerned to have her playing at the high school level but eventually he and her mother, Loree Orren, gave her their full support.

But after this year, Hicks has no intention of trying to play at the varsity level.

“[M]e as a junior going up against a senior as a girl, that’s the year where I might get hurt,” said Hicks. “They start getting really big. They go from medium size high-schoolers to big boys.”

Still, 2012 should be a season to remember for the Whitney sophomore. And it’s likely she’ll wind up her Wildcats’ athletic career with great accomplishments in more traditional girl sports. But she will also serve as an inspiration for those who might think themselves too small to play the great game of high school football.