Brianna Dobson embraces role with JHS football team

Jacksonville defensive end Brianna Dobson, one of the region’s few female soccer players this year, had been to the field in a game before. She got extended playing time in a win over Southeast Springfield a few weeks ago.

Dobson was masked, thrown, and injured, and she was labeled an ugly word (one that begins with a “B”). But she took it in stride.

“I had about 30 yards of flags, penalties, on them,” she said with a laugh. “So that’s something.”

It’s all part of the game – a game Dobson really enjoys.

“I never liked being the typical person,” she said. “I have a brother who played for this team for a while, and it’s just love for her. It’s the feeling of the atmosphere in the locker room, the feeling of having another family – not just your parents at home and your siblings. You come here, and it’s a family environment that no other team can match.

Dobson has been on the Jacksonville football team for two seasons. She is senior this year. She was a member of the Triopia football team in her first year.

Dobson first experienced football in fourth grade. “Because girls develop a little faster, I was a little taller and a little stronger than most guys back then, so it was a lot easier than today”, a- she declared.

She quit football for a while. But when she was in college, she started to think about returning to the game and following in the footsteps of her older brother, Robert. He was also a defensive end.

“I had played volleyball in junior high and didn’t have the same love and passion for it,” Dobson said. “I kind of made a bet with my brother that I wouldn’t last a year, then it just became the love of the sport, the love of the atmosphere, the love of whatever goes with it. . “

Being the only woman on a high school football team was different from what she thought. But not in the way you might think.

“I kind of expected to be left out because it’s a bunch of guys, a bunch of guys who’ve been playing together since they were young,” Dobson said. “And it was just the opposite – just welcoming and everything, with the two teams I played with in my high school career.”

When she was in her sophomore year, Dobson moved to Griggsville, which had just ended her footballing affiliation with Pittsfield. She became a cheerleader – and was miserable. “It wasn’t my thing at the time. I was balancing basketball and cheering, and it just wasn’t the time for me to cheer, ”Dobson said with a laugh. “Not my thing.”

In search of better educational opportunities and a chance to play football again, Dobson moved to Jacksonville.

Like all the other players, she does what she can to help the team.

“I see my role as, like – I’m a senior and I don’t have any playing time, but there are times when I do,” she said. “And you just… I’ll never be the one to have a lot of playtime. I know that.” I am not made for this. But for, like, continue right after because someday your opportunity will present itself. “

That opportunity finally presented itself against Southeast Springfield. Jacksonville coach Mark Grounds had told Dobson ahead of the game that she would likely go to the field. “Oh, we had it all planned out,” she said. “I was ready. I was so excited because we had watched a movie about the Southeast. We were pretty prepared for it.

Entering the game was the thrill of a lifetime. “As soon as you even get your name, it’s just an adrenaline rush,” Dobson said. “You go in there, you know what you have to do. You give pretty much everything for that period of time that you’re in there. That’s all you can do.

Dobson’s heart was racing.

“Challenging guys that are like two or three of you is nerve-racking, but there’s nothing you can really do about it,” she said. “All you can do is put all your efforts into it. “

When masked and thrown away, Dobson suffered from an over-stretched nerve, causing numbness and loss of strength in her left arm. She has not worn the uniform for the past two games. “I’m doing physiotherapy to try to strengthen my hand and get that feeling back,” she said.

The recovery time may be short, or it may take a long time. Dobson was supposed to return to the doctor on Friday to hopefully be cleared to play in Jacksonville’s Senior Night game against Decatur MacArthur next week.

The injury was not a cause for regret. Not at all. “Every sport comes with injuries,” Dobson said. “Everything in everyday life comes with injuries. I could have walked out of my house and done the same.

Playing football was difficult. “Physically it’s pretty tough just because, you look at the average D linemen that we have – they’re about two of me, a lot stronger,” Dobson said. “But the only thing you can do is use the fundamentals that Coach (Troy) Cook taught you to get you through every practice and every game.”

Having a woman on the team created logistical challenges, but by working with Dobson’s family, the team found workarounds.

“She hit it all in stride,” Grounds said. “She goes out, she works hard every day. She does what is expected of her. … It is accepted. It’s not a girl, it’s not a boy, it’s a member of the Crimson football team. And that’s how coaches and players treat her. It has been a positive experience for us.

Grounds said Dobson has a proven track record.

“She deserved the right to wear this shirt, proudly, on match day, and be a part of it,” said the coach.

Other girls asked Dobson to play football. “I tell them, like, it’s not easy,” she said. “You are going to become undersized. You’re going to come in as a person who – oh, it’s a girl. Go to his side. Or, oh, it’s a girl. Hit her. But at the end of the day, I explain to them… our family atmosphere, and our locker room and everything, is out of the ordinary. There is no comparison to the feeling of love from the team and just the feeling of having this family.

About Betty J. Snyder

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