APACHE JUNCTION, AZ - Keep your eye on #17, a freshman, kicking for the Apache Junction High School varsity football team.
Prospectors coach Dave Aoyagi was struggling to find a kicker this past off-season, until soccer coach Norm Hoefer showed up with a prospect. "I ran up and asked coach Yags; I said hey, you auditioning kickers? He said yes, and so I said, well, I got a freshman I think might give it a little whirl," Coach Hoefer told us.
Coach Aoyai responded to coach Hoefer's story, telling us, "I had some kids kicking off the tees and uh, they're not very good, hahaha. They were doing a really poor job and he (Hoefer) said hey, you should let this girl try and kick. She came over a kicked one and he said alright, get your physical and get your paperwork turned in and she can boot the (ball), really well."
That's right! SHE! She is freshman football player, Vie Luff. Once we discovered she was a girl, our first question was, "How did the boys take to having a girl kicker on the team?" Vie says, "They were really nice and they're really friendly and they welcomed me to the team and it's been really easy, overly easy transition I think."
So what was it like for Vie, moving from soccer to football? "At first it was kind of weird", Vie says, "because I've never like carried stuff on my shoulders before, but then you get used to it and it's like nothing's on your shoulders."
The interesting thing about this story is that Vie isn't the only girl on the team! She's actually the second girl to join the Prospectors. Sophomore Danielle Moore is starting her second season at Apache Junction as a defensive back and receiver. Danielle says, "At first, in 8th grade, it was real weird and awkward because I wasn't really friends with anyone, so I was just kind of there. And then, as we started playing together, it was alright."
Vie says she loves football because it's so much like a family. "Like, if someone gets hurt", Vie tells us, "They're always going to be there for you. Someone's making fun of you, they're going to be there for you. Yeah, I like, that's why I like football."
For Danielle, having Vie on the team makes things a whole lot easier. "Whenever you travel to different schools I'm always alone in the girl's locker room, so I just kind of hang out there alone. But now that I have Vie, now sometimes we'll just kind of hang out until we're ready to go."
Vie says playing football has been a great decision and she plans on sticking with it. "I'm going to try and do it all four years", Vie says, "In high school and maybe even try in college."
But the best part of football for Vie is pure joy that comes with being the kicker. "I just like the thrill of making the points and then knowing that my team's always going to be there for me no matter what."
As far as coach Aoyagi is concerned, it's been a fairly easy transition from having all boys on the team to having two females, "At first it was a little bit getting used to and things like that", Coach Aoyagi says, "But now, you know, they understand. Coach, we're not different, we're just football players. They don't want to be treated differently."