Sports: At home in the homecoming queen's court or on the offensive line
RAF ALCONBURY — High school junior Sarra Stanley sure isn’t your average young woman.
She has been selected for homecoming court and is the student council vice president, but it’s on the football field where the 16-year-old has recently been making her mark.
Sarra is the only female football player on a Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Europe high school team in England, and only one of four female players Europe-wide.
But she’s not just the “girl” on the team. She’s also a hard-hitting player who was selected as the small school’s offensive lineman of the year last season.
“If we had five more like her we’d win a few games,” said offensive coach Rodney Lucas before a recent practice. The Dragons have a 1-3 record this year.
Sarra is the kind of player, joked the few coaches milling around at practice, who proudly points out new bruises or takes pride in “protecting” her fellow lineman and brother, Joshua, a freshman, during games.
“I’ve been told I hit pretty hard,” said Sarra, who is 5-foot-7 and weighs 216 pounds.
Playing football for the Alconbury Dragons is a family tradition. Sarra’s older brother, Matt, played until he graduated last year and inspired her to try out for the team.
“My brother … wanted me to come out my freshman year,” she said. She waited until her sophomore year to try out, though. “[He’s] really proud of me,” she said.
“We’ve had other girls try out for the team, but they didn’t have what it takes to make it,” head coach Ron Behr said. “Sarra has the right mindset; she’s an athlete.”
Sarra said she grew up watching football but didn’t know the ins and outs of the positions until she took to the field last year for tryouts.
So when she made the team last season, it wasn’t much of a surprise to anyone at Alconbury, especially Sarra.
“[Other team members] never gave me any crap about being on the team or said that ‘she can’t do that because she’s a girl,’” she said.
The only surprised faces she sees now are on opposing teams, although the smirks quickly fade.
“Menwith Hill,” recalled tackle and defensive end Yul McGrath about one incident where someone didn’t take Sarra seriously. “Their defensive end was making fun of her. When he came in she cut him off and he stopped talking.
“He flipped [over],” McGrath said. “It’s her specialty.”
Behr said Sarra expects to get, as well as give, during the games. The opposition’s got to hit her as hard as they would any other player, he said.
“If you don’t, you’re not playing the game,” he said.
Sarra’s tenacity and strong physical effort actually slowed down the halftime action of Rota’s homecoming court last year.
In the second quarter, the team’s inside linebacker tried to force his way to the quarterback, only to meet up with Sarra on the line. The linebacker was taken off the field, and during halftime she found out he was the homecoming king.
“He had to limp on the field with his cheerleader queen,” she said. “I felt kind of bad, but at the same time it was great.”
This is Sarra’s last year at Alconbury because her father, a captain in the Navy, is transferring to Colorado Springs, Colo. It’s also her last football season, as her new school’s football and softball seasons run concurrently.
Softball is her favorite sport, so football will have to take a back seat.
But, she said, she’ll have fond memories of the gridiron.
“I like getting to hit someone,” she said. “It’s just fun.”