Bassett had Friday’s win over Dan River pretty much in hand late in the fourth quarter, but history was made on the final point.
With the Bengals leading 27-19 after a 2-yard touchdown run by Kevon Smith, head coach Brandon Johnson called in senior Lacey Flanagan to kick the extra point.
Flanagan nailed it, becoming what is believed to be the first girl in school history to score a point for the football team. The kick put an exclamation point on the team’s homecoming victory over the Wildcats.
“I had it in my mind after we scored our last touchdown, ‘If we score again I’m going to let Lacey kick,’” Bassett head coach Brandon Johnson said. “I thought her senior year, homecoming, why not? I love for the kids to get the most out of this experience and I think that was very fitting in front of a packed house … People were going nuts. Place went crazy when she made the field goal. It was awesome.”
Flanagan was already a three-sport athlete at Bassett. She was an all-Piedmont District cross country runner last season and is one of the top runners for the Bengals again this fall. She’s also the point guard for the girls basketball team and one of the leading scorers for the girls soccer team.
But giving football a try was something she’d wanted to do since she started watching games in the student section her freshman year.
“I always thought about it my ninth grade year. I was like, ‘Kicking can’t be that bad.’ And then it was totally different when I first tried it, of course,” Flanagan said. “I went up to (coach) Johnson and it became a thing where I was like, ‘It’s kind of on my bucket list. Can I try it?’ And he was all for it. Kind of like a girl power kind of thing. He thought it would be cool.”
“We had talked about it on back to school night,” Johnson said. “She was with her mom and she kind of hinted around that it might be something that was on her bucket list and her mom was kind of like, ‘I don’t think coach is going to go for that,’ because she really didn’t want me to. I feel like most moms wouldn’t. But I was like, ‘Man, I’m all for it.’”
Johnson knew Flanagan through watching her in gym class at the school and watching her excel in all her other sports, so he knew the kind of athlete she is. Flanagan still runs cross country full time with the Bengals in the fall, but a couple of times a week after cross country practice she’ll go to the football field and practice kicking.
Flanagan was getting kicks through the uprights on her first practice. But trying it with pads on was a bit different.
“I went a couple weeks after their season started and I practiced with (coach) Johnson and the first time I went I had them in,” she said. “And then he gave me the football gear, which surprisingly wasn’t too bad. The helmet was a little tight on my ears which I was not used to, of course.”
“She came out here one day after practice, her dad came with her and I stood out here with her and I said, ‘Hey kick it. You’re a soccer player. Visualize a soccer ball, lock in and just do what you do on the soccer field and just focus,’” Johnson said. “And she right away could put it through the uprights. And that was the biggest thing.”
Friday’s kick was Flanagan’s first attempt in a game. She admits she was nervous, but she tried to just focus her mind and treat it like a soccer game.
“It’s so different. In soccer you can kick the ball and you can look up at the goal and you can aim. But in football you have to keep your eye on the ball. If you look up it’s either going to the ground, the wrong direction, everywhere. Kicking, it’s more pressure than you think it’d be,” she said. “My mom said, ‘Just take it like a PK in soccer.’ That’s how I kind of projected it and that’s what I thought of.”
While she relishes the chance to get in the game, Flanagan said it’s more about just being a part of the team and learning more about football from the inside. She rides the bus with the team, gets her own locker room at away games, and talks with the coaches and players who help hype her up.
She said she knew a bit about how football is played before she joined the team, but has learned much more being on the sidelines.
The players have brought her into their world, and now consider her a sister in their family.
“They’re really fun. It’s funny when we’re in the huddle they’ll say, ‘Oh, we’re here for our brothers and sister,’” she said. “The funny thing is ever since I got on the team that’s how I learned football. Before then I was in the stands and I was like, ‘Oh let me just watch and cheer them on,’ but it’s totally different when you’re on the sideline. I think I like it better there. It’s definitely different … Now that I’m on the sideline I ask them a bunch of questions. I’ve kind of got it down but it helped me learn a lot.”
It doesn’t surprise Johnson that the players have taken to having Flanagan on the sidelines with them.
“I’ve got a great team. I’ve got a great group of guys who are accepting of anybody who wants to be a part of this family,” Johnson said. “We’re a family. It’s been really fun for me. I’ve got a daughter. I would never want somebody to tell my daughter she couldn’t do something, because I’m the type if somebody tells you you can’t do something, go do it. So by me having a 5-year-old myself, I was just like, ‘Man, I want to give her a chance, and if I give her a chance I want it to be a real experience for her.’”
Johnson is unsure if Flanagan is the first girl to ever play football at Bassett, but he said he can guarantee she’s the first to ever score a point in a varsity game.
Even if she doesn’t get another chance to kick in a game, Flanagan is officially part of the Bengals family, and will forever be in the record books.
“I’ll always want to give kids a chance to make the most out of their high school experience … I wanted her experience to be the best that it could be,” Johnson said. “I was expecting her to dress out some games and Lacey has been with us every game … It’s been a unique experience and I’ve enjoyed it.”
“Definitely being the only girl on the team… walking around and hearing, ‘Oh is that a girl on the football team?’ And you just want to look back at them and say, ‘Yes. Yes I am,’” Flanagan said. “But it proves that I guess girls can do things that guys can do too.
“I just hope we win the rest of our games. Regardless if I get to kick or not it doesn’t really matter because I’d rather them win over anything because that’s my team. Now I see what they mean by family on that team because they work hard for it. I just want to see them win.”
(This story originally appeared in The Martinsville Bulletin.)