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Amaya Lacey of Gresham High School perfects technique to land role on football team.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: DAVID BALL - Lucky number 13, Amaya Lacey, the Gresham High School Gopher's kicker, slams one through the goalposts. Amaya Lacey got hit for the first time this year.

"It actually didn't hurt at all, but it was a shock," said Lacey, Gresham High School's first female football player.

As the Gophers' kicker, the soccer standout made 16 of the 19 kicks she attempted this year.

Not bad for a girl.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: TERESA CARSON - Gresham High School Principal Michael Schaefer calls Lacey 'a great young lady.' A senior, Lacey has kicked for the Gophers for two years and played on the girls soccer team for four.

She didn't start high school with a burning desire to be on the football team.

Lacey's boyfriend was the team quarterback, so two years ago she began working out with the squad over the summer just to get some exercise and stay in shape for soccer season, which coincides with football.

"It kind of became like a joke that I would be on the football team," she said.

Lacey started practicing her kicks on a lark.

The football players, impressed with her accuracy and consistency, asked Mike Melton, Gresham High School's head football coach, to watch her.

"It only took me three minutes when I watched her kick," Melton said. "It was down the middle every single time."

Nobody was shocked. Lacey said she never felt resented by her teammates.

"I don't believe they ever thought about me being a girl. I never gave them any doubt, because I was consistent and I did my job," she said. "They were all super supportive."

Far from being snubbed by her male teammates, Lacey said they were often gently protective of her.

If a member of an opposing team raised a question about a girl on the team, she said, the team would straighten them out.

"She was treated like any other teammate," Melton said. "There was no pushback" from anyone, "I never heard one complaint."

Melton noted that that might not have been the case if Lacey was just a novelty and wasn't good in her role.

She said much of the time opponents didn't even realize she was female until the lineup at the end of the game when one would say, "Wait, you're a girl?"

"I got a lot of positive feedback. A lot of people thought I was courageous to do it," Lacey said.

Her family was also supportive.

"My dad loved it," she said. "He had two girls."

Female kickers are not unheard of in high school football. In fact, at crosstown rival Barlow High School, senior Keely Fetters broke that barrier this year, becoming the first female on the Barlow football team. Like Lacey, Fetters also is a soccer player.

CONTRIBUTED - Lacey, a standout on the Gopher soccer team, also boasts a 3.86 grade point average. Lacey played both football and girls soccer. Practices were at the same time, so coaches allowed her some flexibility in moving from one to another.

She was just as happy on her soccer team as on the football team.

"It has been a great experience. Our team is like a family," she said. "It is a really good group of girls."

A student leader, Lacey is on the student council, volunteers with special needs children on the soccer field and serves Thanksgiving dinner at the Union Gospel Mission in Portland.

Lacey is a standout in class too. She has a 3.86 grade point average and is taking advanced classes that will allow her to graduate with college credits in English and biology. She counts the latter as her favorite class and plans to be a neonatal or pediatric nurse.

Lacey's applied to multiple colleges in Oregon and is weighing her options. She said she'll go to the one that offers the best opportunity in nursing, even if it means she won't play soccer or get a scholarship for it.

Gresham High School Principal Michael Schaefer believes Lacey provides a role model for others at the school.

"She's a great young lady, on and off of the field," he said, "and a good example of the quiet kids that continue to make our community better."

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