Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Western Reserve girl football players have 'right determination'

COLLINS, Ohio — Julia Tite’s football teammates often stay after practice to help her out.

“They just love that she plays,” said her mother, Sarah Kieffer.

“She’s gotten a lot of great feedback. The coaches just love her. She’s just the sweetest little girl you’d ever meet,” she added.

Tite is one of two eighth-grade girls playing football for Western Reserve. Also on the team is Mikah Smiley. Coaches said they believe this is the first time girls have played football for the Roughriders.

However, one NORWALK REFLECTOR reader said Tite and Smiley aren't the first girls to play football for the Roughriders. She said her daughter, Charity Deaton, was the first female to play Roughrider football, playing offensive end and defensive tackle in 1986.

“She (Tite) plays full-time on the seventh-grade team and is a back-up on eighth grade,” Kieffer said. “She was practicing for wide receiver.”

Tite plays defensive end and on the other side of the ball, she plays tight end. Smiley is an outside linebacker, safety and wide receiver.

“She’s also mixing in the special teams with kicking,” coach Frank Edwards said about Smiley.

Edwards praised both players for their hard work and determination.

“I’ve never seen someone work so hard as those two ladies,” the coach said. “Nobody is going to say what they can and can’t do. They’re extremely hard workers.”

Since the first day of practice, Edwards said each of the boys on the team have taken Smiley and Tite under their wing.

“I feel sorry for the first person to lay a decent hit on either of them,” the coach added.

“They’ve mixed in well with the team. (Unless) you see them without their helmets, you’d never know (they’re girls),” Edwards said.
Eighth graders Julia Tite (left) and Mikah Smiley are good friends who play football
for the seventh- and eighth-grade football teams at Western Reserve in Collins, Ohio.
Photo by Joe Centers/NORWALK REFLECTOR

Western played Edison on Thursday. The ’Riders won the eighth-grade game, but the seventh-grade game was called due to lightning, with the Chargers up 14-0.

Those games are an interesting match-up, given that Tite’s mother is an Edison grad and her late father, Tony, graduated from Western.

“She’s a big football fan. I’m a Steelers fan. Her dad passed away a few years ago and he was a Colts fan and she’s a Colts fan,” Kieffer said.

Tony Tite played baseball ever since he was a child. Kieffer said he was more interested in baseball, but was “a big sports fan.” She’s confident he would be excited and supportive about his daughter playing football.

Julia Tite’s interest in football games isn’t new.

“She’s just a tomboy. She’s been playing football with the boys for years,” her mother said.

When the family lived in the Perkins school district last year, Tite expressed interest in playing football. Her mother said she was told she couldn’t play, but could attend a camp.

“It kinda broke her heart,” Kieffer said.

But once she and her daughter moved to Collins, Tite was all in with Western’s football program.

“She wasn’t even enrolled in school and she was already out there playing with the team,” Kieffer said.

Her mother admittedly is “super excited” about her daughter playing football. She said the teenager hasn’t complained at all. Recently Tite hit her hand on a helmet, but she was eager and ready to return to practice.

“She has not complained about being sore or anything,” Kieffer said.

When she has time, she watches her daughter practice.

“She’s doing great,” the proud mother said.

Apparently, Tite already has a following in the Collins area. Kieffer said a friend of her boyfriend expressed interest in meeting her daughter during a house-warming party. The man works at the Western concession stand.

“I’ve been waiting all day to meet you,” Kieffer said, quoting the man when he introduced himself to Tite. “She was super excited.”

And then of course, Tite was ready to play some pigskin.

“She put her helmet and pads on and was playing football with the boys that day,” her mother said.

Edwards said neither girl seeks attention or the limelight, but he believes that whatever they set their mind to, they can achieve.

“They have just the right determination to do it,” the coach said.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This one of a pair of NORWALK REFLECTOR newspaper features written by Cary's Comics Craze creator/webmaster and blogger Cary Ashby. The stories were on the front page of Tuesday's issue. (To read the other feature, go here.) For the last four years, Ashby -- a REFLECTOR reporter who also writes sports as a correspondent -- has covered varsity football and basketball at Western Reserve High School in Collins, Ohio.

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