Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eighth grade girl gives football a shot

GREENVILLE — Lauren Tice isn’t your typical eighth-grade girl.
She hunts, fishes, and even volunteers for the Animal Welfare League in her spare time.
But that doesn't begin to measure up to her new hobby: football.
The eighth-grade Riverside student played her first junior high football game Monday in a 28-12 loss at county rival St. Joseph.
The petite, brown-haired junior high student survived weeks of practice and became what is believed to be the first female to ever suit up for the Bulldogs.
But why did a young girl, who has dabbled in everything from choir to being a homecoming maid, take up a sport dominated by guys?
“I didn't make softball. I'm not good at basketball. And I did choir last year,” she explained Monday night following her football debut.
Tice, who plays mostly on special teams during kickoff returns, told her mother, Debbie Tice, last spring about her aspirations. The elder Tice said she tried to talk her out of it, but her daughter's mind was made up.
“When she gets her head stuck on something,” said Debbie Tice, “she does it.”
Riverside junior high football coach Brad Andrews said she approached him around the same time. Tice, who said she starting training last summer, came out for practice this year and has been keeping pace with her teammates ever since.
“She goes out there and does everything the boys do,” he said. “She doesn't hold back.”
And neither did one of St. Joseph's players Monday night during a kickoff return. The Fighting Irish lineman leveled Tice and sent her spiraling to the ground.
She said that served as her “welcome to football” moment.
So what does the aspiring veterinarian think of her debut?
“I sucked,” she said, “because that (St. Joe) guy knocked me down.”
But don't anticipate Tice from giving up anytime soon. She says she's in it for the long haul, especially if she can bulk up a bit.
“I just need to get a little taller,” said Lauren Tice,” and gain some weight.”
Lauren Tice said she heard the naysayers before and after she made her decision. But that never deterred her.
“I was just thinking everyone's telling me I can't,” she said, “so I did it anyway.”
Andrews, the Riverside coach, said he stands behind Tice, and the rest of the team does as well.
“I wouldn't against it (when she came out for the team),” he said. “Though it would be interesting, I didn't have a probelm with it.
“(The Bulldog squad) is fine with it,” he added. “She a part of the team.”
Lauren Tice has made a name for herself in the classroom by being named to the Superintendent's List numerous times. And she was one of four Mississippi student ambassadors during her fifth grade year when she traveled to Scotland and London for 19 days.
Now, she wants to make her mark on the football field. And if not with a touchdown, then at least with her fashion.
She donned pink shoestrings in her Monday night debut.
"They wouldn't let me wear pink shoes or pink socks," Lauren Tice explained.
But Lauren Tice isn't the first girl to give football a shot at Riverside. Another female previously came out for the team, but only lasted one week of practice, said Debbie Tice.
"She's the first one to actually stick through it, I think," she said.
Debbie Tice also brought up a recent encounter her daughter had with Dr. Michael Mansour, an area St. Joseph supporter.
After Mansour told Lauren Tice about his allegiance to St. Joseph, she refused to give him any information about what position she would play for Riverside.
" 'You may be a spy, I can't tell you,'" Debbie Tice said her daughter told Mansour. "'If I tell you where I'm at, they'll come after me because I'm a girl.'
"He was killing himself laughing," said Debbie Tice.
Lauren Tice's football knowledge has increased drastically from when she first began down this path, said her mother.
"She didn't know to play....She didn't know positions. She was amazed at all the pads and things they have to wear," her mother said.
Lauren's parents, Debbie and Mark, both took off work Monday to watch their daughter. Some of Debbie's co-workers at the Delta Regional Medical Center showed up as well.
"When I told some of my co-workers at the hospital that my daughter was on the team, they said, 'I'm coming to the game,' " said Debbie Tice.
Next up for Tice and the Riverside Jr. High Bulldogs is another rival — O'Bannon on Sept. 6 at 6 p.m.
At that game, she hopes to line up at her favorite position, safety, and not just on special teams duty.
"...When you think of kick return, the first thing that comes to mind is lame," said the 13-year-old Tice. "When you say first-string defense, everyone's like 'oh, really.' "

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