With 1:40 remaining in Friday night's season opening football game between South Plantation (Fla.) High and Nova (Fla.) High there didn't seem to be much time left for major drama. Nursing a 31-14 lead and marching the ball down the field to kill time, South Plantation could easily have let the game run out and moved on to week two.
Instead, Paladins coach Doug Gatewood decided to break through a metaphorical glass ceiling, inserting his backup quarterback for two snaps. Her name is Erin DiMeglio, and she is believed to have become the first girl in state history to play quarterback in a varsity high school football game as a result. According to the Associated Press, some 500 girls have played for Florida football teams, but none have ever entered the game as a quarterback.
There are no official records of other girls who have played quarterback in varsity games in other states, so it remains unknown if DiMeglio is just the first girl to play the position at a varsity level in Florida or the first girl to play the position anywhere in the nation. Either way, the accomplishment is a notable one.
Prep Rally and others have profiled DiMeglio's passing talent in recent weeks as the specter of her historic first loomed. Still, there was no sense that she would get on the field as early as week one. Her odds seemed even more remote in the first half, with host Nova jumping out to a 14-10 halftime lead.
All of that changed with a big second half from South Plantation, with DiMeglio eventually entering for a pair of shotgun snaps on which she handed the ball off each time.
Afterwards, Gatewood was quick to praise the senior, who made the team as a third quarterback following an impressive summer stint in summer 7-on-7 events with the Paladins (she once threw five touchdowns in a single game); DiMeglio also serves as the quarterback for South Plantation's flag football team in the spring.
"God bless her," Gatewood told the press. "She handles it better than anybody else. When she goes on the field, she's single-minded focus, but it's crazy. Great publicity for the school -- it's a positive thing -- but at the end of the day it's not why we did it. We did it because she's a legitimate third-string quarterback."
On Friday, DiMeglio's duties were limited to handing off the ball as her team whittled away time with a lead after a deceptively tight game. That remit essentially eliminated the prospect of any passing plays for the senior, who has said her dream is to throw a touchdown pass in a varsity game.
Given the likelihood of further one-sided wins, and the crowd's appetite to see a female quarterback on the field -- the crowd at Nova on Friday night chanted "Put Erin in! Put Erin in!" throughout the later stages of the fourth quarter -- it seems likely that DiMeglio will eventually get a chance to make that dream come true.
Until then, the senior plans to keep training and proving herself with her teammates, something she's succeeded at quite well so far in her lone varsity football campaign.
"[Having the crowd chant her name is] a great feeling, but I think it should be a whole team," Dimeglio told the Miami Herald. "It's a team effort, not just me. I'm just out here to prove myself. Just prove by doing it on the field and not by saying anything. Don't give up on your dreams. Keep dreaming and work at it."
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