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A League of her Own

South Boston NewsSouth Boston News
Ella Morrison / September 02, 2021

When Ella Morrison took to the football field on Friday night to kick for the Halifax County High School Comets, it was the first time in the program’s history a girl had played on the HCHS football team.

Morrison, a standout on the girls basketball and soccer teams, performed on opening night nothing short of what one would expect from any seriously good kicker — putting points on the scoreboard, showing the ability to place a decent punt and posting good results off the kicking tee.

Halifax won the home and season opener against Person County, 42-8.

Morrison said her desire to play the game was not a last-minute idea but a lifelong dream that she finally put in motion after hearing the football team needed a kicker.

“Well, I kind of always wanted to play football but I guess I had to work up the courage to,” Morrison said. “I just always loved the sport. I always watched football, always wanted to play.

Her road to accomplishing her dream to play football began in the spring as COVID-19 shortened soccer seasons for the girls and boys team were coming to an end.

“The football coaches were at boys soccer practice trying to find a kicker; they said they needed one.” Morrison remembered. “Then in my head I was like, well, I can do this better than any of those boys soccer players can.”

Though she didn’t approach any of the coaches, that day her mind was made up to try out for the team. She asked HCHS athletics director Allen Lawter how she could get in contact with football coach Rob Senseney.

“I just reached out to Lawter and asked him to put me in touch with Coach Senseney,” Morrison said of meeting the head coach. “Then Coach Senseney told me when tryouts were.”

As the summer months approached, Morrison wasted no time in getting prepared for tryouts. She was fortunate to have former JMU and Comet kicker Cameron Starke helping her learn how to kick for football.

Morrison said Starke has taught her everything she knows about being a placekicker and punter. Starke has played a big role in his support of Ella.

“He helped me over the summer before tryouts, taught me everything about kicking, is still helping me — coming and giving tips after practices and games, and was the first person to support my decision to play,” Morrison said. Morrison’s football dream has involved a lot of people — from family and teammates, to friends and people in the community.

As tryouts approached Morrison said she was nervous but determined to make the team. There was no turning back.

“Yeah definitely, I was really nervous,” Morrison said. “We just started with some close kicks and I just warmed up and did some stuff from there.”

She noted tryouts were different than any other sport she’d participated in, as she was the only person there except the coaches. Which she found unusual, but also funny in a way. Her being selected to the team was a surreal moment.

“Well, I was the only one at tryouts,” said Morrison. “At the time I didn’t know if other people were trying out at different times or what was happening.

“But after that tryout Coach Senseney told me, ‘Good job and we can probably use you,’ and then he reached out telling me when practice was supposed to be.”

Regardless of what high school sport you play, athletes across the spectrum of sports usually have friends that play different sports. In Morrison’s case it was no different. She says football team members supported her before tryouts and were happy when she made the cut.

“I know a ton of the guys,” Morrison said, referencing her teammates. “I’ve known them for a while. I talked to some of them before I tried out and they all told me to go for it. They were very supportive; they loved that I was on the team.”

When game time came on Friday night she was still nervous but excited. Having played several sports at the scholastic and recreational sports levels, she said nothing prepared her for being in a football stadium and the palpable energy that comes with it.

“Yeah it was crazy,” Morrison said of taking the field for the first time in a game. “It was just an amazing experience. Just the atmosphere of a football game is so different from any other sport.

“I’ve still got to work on not being nervous but I think my nerves went away, because after I went out on the field once, I realized I can trust my teammates. They are not going to let anyone hit me. They’re gonna do their job and I’m gonna do mine.”

She said like most players she has areas of her game that need to be addressed. Morrison is willing to put in the time and dedication to get better.

“I’ve just got to get out there and work on my skills like everybody else,” Morrison said. “I’ve just got to put in the time so when they need me, I can deliver.”

Since she loves the game, what exactly were her thoughts on Friday’s team performance?

“I think we played pretty good, there are some things we can do better but we played good as a team,” Morrison said. “We played fast. We did good, especially for our first game.”

Morrison said she has been appreciative of all the support she is receiving but wanted to mention two players that offer her continual support throughout the game.

I’d just like to give a shout out to my snapper and my holder,” Morrison said. “I mean Turb (Kamron Turbeville) and Christian (Midkiff) did everything to perfection [on Friday] but like before I go out on the field they’re telling me you’re gonna be fine. They ground me when I’m really nervous.”

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