2017-11-08 / Front Page

Junior Pro football team uses ‘SECRET WEAPON’ to remain undefeated

EDMUND BURKE ACADEMY
ASHLEIGH JAQUESS


Amy Eastmead, at left, with her daughter Lelia, the first girl to play football for the Spartans. Amy Eastmead, at left, with her daughter Lelia, the first girl to play football for the Spartans. The smallest of the Spartans have an untarnished record. Edmund Burke’s Junior Pro football team ended this season, undefeated for the second year in a row. This year, the team gained someone who they call their secret weapon, Leila Eastmead. Standing at 52 inches and weighing in at 62 pounds, nine-year-old Leila was certainly not afraid of playing with the guys, even ones who were much stronger and older than she is.

The Junior Pro football program has been going on for more than 10 years, and fourth-grader Leila is the first girl to ever play on the team. Leila even cut 10 inches off her hair at the beginning of the season so her braids would fit better in her helmet, and later donated it. She sported #43 on her jersey while playing power back and safety, and was certainly never underestimated just because she was a girl.


The Spartan Junior Pro team consists of, from left, front row: North Williams, Noah Hickman, Will Gelderman, Ryan Reddick, Grant Robinson, Brandon Bailey, Ryan Miles and Sam Hickman; middle row: Jack Sasser, Nox Williams, Logan Carpenter, Leila Eastmead, Blake Reddick, Braddock Wilson, Aden Hickman, Andrew Cates and Maddox Lee; and back row: Asher Hammett, Del Wade James, Davis Brown, Clayton Gunter, Matthew Hood, Jackson Cooper, Owen Redd and Jayden Seutter. They are coached by Norman Williams, Todd Redd, Joseph Miles, Jeremy Brown and Brad Hickman. The Spartan Junior Pro team consists of, from left, front row: North Williams, Noah Hickman, Will Gelderman, Ryan Reddick, Grant Robinson, Brandon Bailey, Ryan Miles and Sam Hickman; middle row: Jack Sasser, Nox Williams, Logan Carpenter, Leila Eastmead, Blake Reddick, Braddock Wilson, Aden Hickman, Andrew Cates and Maddox Lee; and back row: Asher Hammett, Del Wade James, Davis Brown, Clayton Gunter, Matthew Hood, Jackson Cooper, Owen Redd and Jayden Seutter. They are coached by Norman Williams, Todd Redd, Joseph Miles, Jeremy Brown and Brad Hickman. Leila said that she loved playing football, even with the guys. “They didn’t treat me any different just because I am a girl,” she said, adding that she’s always loved watching the Atlanta Falcons play and enjoys playing other sports, such as softball and basketball, so she really wanted to try football. “My favorite part was scoring touchdowns and tackling people. Tackling boys made me feel pretty good, especially when they were bigger than me,” she said.


Leila Eastmead Leila Eastmead Amy Eastmead, Leila’s mom, said that she wasn’t very surprised when Leila first came to her asking if she could play football. “She has always played sports, especially football, with the boys at recess, so we weren’t really shocked when she wanted to play on the team with them,” commented Mrs. Eastmead. “Watching her makes us so proud. A lot of people ask us why we aren’t afraid that she is going to get hit too hard by the boys, but we know that the truth is, we were just as worried when our son played. It didn’t make a difference to us that she was a girl.” Although Leila was a standout player, being the first and only girl to play, the team of 25 had many talented athletes on the team that contributed to their fantastic success. “This is my third year coaching the Junior Pro team at EBA, and it was definitely a special year for us, having back to back undefeated seasons,” commented coach Brad Hickman, adding that each and every player had an important role on the team, from the players to the water boys. “We had a lot of fifth-graders step up and play for us this year who will definitely be missed next year. The other coaches and I can’t wait to see what they do playing middle school and high school later on. We are so proud of these kids, and we can’t wait to see what next year has in store for us.”

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