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LHS freshman breaking gender barrier
Oct 06, 2012 12:00 am
By ANDY REED
Lebanon High has fielded football teams since its founding at the end of World War I.
As near as can be determined, all of the Blue Devil players through nine-plus decades have been boys - until now.
Keyanna Word has been running, stretching, lifting and hitting with her male teammates on the freshman team. Like her fellow Blue Devils, she gets down and dirty at one of the most down-and-dirty positions - nose guard - as well as defensive end. And she doesn't fret over broken fingernails.
"It's fun," said Word, who credited her father with getting into football, "and watching Titans games."
"When she goes in at the nose, we'll run some stunts with her," Lebanon coach Mike Jones said before the Blue Devils' season finale against Portland on Thursday at Clifton Tribble Field/Danny Watkins Stadium. "She's gritty. She gets in there, works, gets in the backfield and makes plays for us.
"She's come a long way. It took the first couple of games for her to get in, to get her leverage. She's small, so she had to really learn some technique to be able to compete with these guys who are a lot bigger."
Word stands around 5-foot-5 and weighs in the 110-pound neighborhood. But size isn't the most important attribute to playing on the nose.
"She'll stunt a gap right there and use her quickness to our benefit," Jones said before his Blue Devils ended a 2-6 season with a 21-14 overtime loss in which she saw extensive action in the second half. "Sometimes, it isn't all about the size. It's about the heart, the fight and the want-to."
Word ran the ball as a fullback at Walter J. Baird Middle School and has stayed with the program through the offseason.
"She's one of those who has aspirations of playing in the [women's] semipro league," Lebanon varsity coach Troy Crane said. "She's a very physically-fit young lady.
"She's been in all the offseason lifting program. She's never missed a workout."
In addition to football, Word also participates in the school's Junior Air Force ROTC program.
"I want to wrestle and play basketball, but too busy with football," said Word, who plans to try out for the Blue Devil varsity.
When asked about how the guys treat her, she started in on the coaches, with Jones listening nearby.
"The coaches were pretty mad because I knocked out the starting defensive end. Some of the coaches are good. The head coach is messed up," Word said with Jones laughing nearby.
In the annals of Wilson County football, Camille Cross was a kicker as a Friendship Christian senior a few years ago. She also played soccer [itself a rough-and-tumble sport] and was the catcher for the Lady Commander softball team.
Sports Editor Andy Reed can be reached at 444-3952, ext. 17; or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org