SA girl football player sits out

Published 11:24 am Friday, October 7, 2011

Southampton Academy seventh-grader Mina Johnson is the first girl to play football for the Courtland school. Mina was benched during Thursday's game after the Raiders' opponent threatened to forfeit if a girl played. DON BRIDGERS/TIDEWATER NEWS


COURTLAND—The first girl to play football for Southampton Academy sat out during Thursday night’s junior varsity game.

That’s because opponent Northeast Academy threatened to forfeit if starting eighth-grader Mina Johnson played.

“The Northeast Eagles said they wouldn’t come to the game and would forfeit because I am a girl,” said the 5-foot-2, 170-pound defensive player, who sacked Rocky Mount’s quarterback four times during a 30-24 win on Sept. 22.

Mina chose to sit out.

“During conditioning, I often refer to Mina as an example to the team of how to hustle and work hard on the field,” Coach Brian Parker said. “She really does deserve to play.”

The coach and the headmaster for Northeast Academy in Lasker, N.C., did not return phone calls to The Tidewater News.

SA Athletic Director Dale Marks said Word of God Christian Academy is also considering not playing on Thursday, Oct. 27, if Mina plays. The academy’s coach and principal did not return calls.

Both teams belong to the North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association. According to the league website, participation by boys in girls’ sports and vice-versa is prohibited.

Mina’s mother, who says her daughter has always been athletic, isn’t happy about the matter.

“There is nothing in the rule books for junior varsity football in North Carolina or Virginia that says a girl can’t play,” said Mona Johnson. “No one is breaking any rules by allowing her to play.”

“I absolutely hate this for Mina and for the team,” she continued. “They are all just kids playing a game and having fun doing it. It’s terribly unfair to them all.”

Parker earlier in the week told the team about Northeast’s stand.

“Everybody was upset,” Mina said. “They told us to ‘let this be a spark’ toward winning the game.”

It was.

The Raiders defeated the Eagles 60-0 during Thursday’s home contest.

An honor-roll student and daughter of Franklin surgeon Gregory Johnson, Mina’s interest in football was sparked by her 15-year-old brother, Greg, a sophomore lineman and guard for the Raiders’ varsity squad.

“One day on the school bus, Greg started teasing me that I could be a linebacker,” Mina said. “I didn’t even know what that was, so I looked it up on the Internet.”

She tried out for SA’s junior varsity team and made it.

“I was so excited,” Mina said. “I knew absolutely nothing about football before this year and am learning so much as I go along.”

Mina also likes that’s she’s making school history.

“This is something you can’t take away, ever, and it’s me doing it,” said Mina, who plays nose tackle, left guard and linebacker. “My first game, I took down a 6-foot quarterback.”

Greg is very proud of his sister.

“Every time she makes a hit or a good play, my friends and I all cheer for her,” he said. “She’s definitely got me beat on the speed thing.”

On Thursday, Mina’s teammates wore pink socks and armbands to recognize her and National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“The team thought it would be a nice gesture,” Parker said.

Mina will continue to practice and aspires to play varsity ball. Aside from the bruises, a sore knee and a twisted ankle she said, “getting up when you fall down is the hardest part. You have to brush it off and get right back in the game.”