MONROE — After playing girls soccer for her first three years of high school, Monroe’s Lynzee Felder was faced with an interesting decision.
After one of the assistant coaches on the Monroe Bearcats football staff saw Felder kicking at her little brother’s youth football camp, he told Felder that the Bearcats were in need of a kicker if she was interested in trying out for football.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Felder made the decision to give football a shot and earned a spot as the team’s place-kicker on extra points.
“I’ve kind of always wanted to try football,” Felder said. “I can play soccer after high school. I don’t know if I will get the opportunity to ever play football again.”
Felder splits the Bearcats’ kicking duties with Jordan Trujillo, who handles the kickoffs and field goals. There is also an open competition each week between the two to see who will handle extra-point attempts during the games — a competition Felder has won each of the first three weeks of the season.
In Monroe’s first game of the year, a 30-24 victory over Edmonds-Woodway, Felder went 4-for-4 on PAT attempts, proving that she earned the job.
“It was kind of like a big weight lifted off my shoulders,” Felder said of her first game performance. “It felt good to make all four of them my first game ever and just to do good and help my team.”
Felder didn’t get a chance to attempt an extra point in the second game of the season as the Bearcats were shut out 35-0 by Woodinville, but she was back at it last Friday in a 25-15 victory over Kamiak.
However, the game didn’t start the way she might have hoped. After the Bearcats found the end zone in the first quarter on a 32-yard touchdown run by Jordan Moore, Felder’s PAT attempt hit the crossbar and fell short.
A dejected Felder got a pep talk from assistant coach Jake Herigstad on the sideline. Felder said Herigstad grabbed her by the facemask and told her not to lose focus, that everyone misses sometimes.
Apparently the encouragement worked. Felder got another opportunity in the fourth quarter after another Moore touchdown run and split the uprights.
“It is really what I need,” Felder said. “I needed someone to tell me it’s OK.”
Monroe head coach Dick Abrams has confidence in Felder, saying if the game rested on the foot of a Felder PAT, he believes in his senior kicker.
“If I didn’t, she wouldn’t be kicking for us,” Abrams said. “I have total confidence in her when she is out there.”
“Her accuracy is incredible and her kicking ability is great,” Moore added.
Abrams’ confidence isn’t just because of Felder’s kicking ability. She proved herself in the offseason by working out with other players to get ready for the season.
“The guys have really accepted her as part of the team,” Abrams said.
Felder’s ability to fit in with the team has Abrams thinking of her as just another player.
“I really don’t think of her as being female, to tell you the truth,” Abrams said. “I think of her as a football player.”
A football player is exactly what Felder wants to be, so much so that Abrams said that Felder goes through the same tackling drills that the other players do.
“She actually got mad at one of the guys in a tackling drill because he didn’t hit her hard,” Abrams said.
Moore says that the team has a strict policy on not swearing, so the players haven’t had to adjust how they talk around Felder.
Of course boys will be boys, but Felder says she wouldn’t want the other players to have a filter.
“One of the players said, ‘Sorry you have to listen to this,’ ” Felder recalled about a particular practice. “Another player said, ‘You know what, Lynzee, for the rest of the season, you’re a dude.'”
Of course there are some reminders of Felder being female. At home games, Felder dresses away from the team and is called into the locker room after the other players have dressed for the pregame talk. It is something Felder says she didn’t think about when she made her decision to play.
“It didn’t really cross my mind until the first game,” Felder said. “And then I was like, ‘Wait, what do I do? Where am I supposed to go?’ “
Felder says she has gotten nothing but support for her decision to play football.
“No one was disappointed,” Felder said. “They all thought it was really cool. No one has been negative about it.”
To top it all off, the Bearcats are 2-1 after three games and look to be on the upswing.
“It’s really exciting that we actually might be going somewhere this year,” Felder said. “It’s just really, really exciting, and I am happy to be a part of it.”
Moore said that Felder’s commitment is as strong as any other player.
“She’s a really great girl and she just wants to be there and be a part of the team,” Moore said. “She wants to be a part of it just as much as we do.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on twitter @aaronlommers.