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According to Statista.com, 2,404 girls in America play high school football, and the number of girls playing has increased every year since 2009.

The Tri-Valley was introduced to one of its first female football players this year, when sophomore Grace Toney was placed on the Dublin High JV football roster. Grace was the Gaels’ kicker this year and started all games for the team this season.

“Playing football this season was something I needed,” said Grace. “I needed something that brought me joy, and football did that for me.”

Though Grace was the only girl playing in the Tri-Valley this year, she wasn’t the first. The first female football player to ever play at a public Tri-Valley high school was her sister, Makenna Toney.

Makenna played offensive lineman at Dublin and inspired Grace to do the same. Grace said Makenna played a huge role in her decision to play football.

“The reason why I started was because she convinced me to,” said Grace. “I already was thinking about playing, but she definitely pushed me in that direction.”

Though her sister played, not everyone was a fan of Grace playing football. Her parents and other siblings did not want her to participate — afraid she would get hurt. But Grace’s mother eventually bought into the idea, and the family has supported her since.

Grace also gained support from her teammates and close friends. She was hesitant at first, but the support from her teammates made the transition smoother for her.

“I don’t remember anyone being negative about it,” she said. “I think at first, people were in shock, like ‘no way that’s awesome’, but overall nobody really had anything negative about it.”

The amount of high school girls participating in football has been rising, and it's even gotten to the point where some girls are playing positions such as defensive back and wide receivers, two positions that require hitting.

Some advocates have even been pushing to make all-girls football teams at the high school level. In Utah, a youth all-girls tackle football league has been implemented and currently has ten teams. Grace is an advocate of making a girls’ football team at Dublin as she believes there is enough participation to warrant a team.

“I think a lot more girls would want to play football. I know for a fact that my friends are interested, so I think Dublin should make a team,” she said.

Grace’s experience playing football was one that she won’t forget. She is a multiple sport athlete playing soccer and basketball, but football was different. The experience of putting on the helmet and shoulder pads was life-changing in her eyes because it gave her a new perspective of what she could accomplish.

“It’s just a good thing in my life that’s going,” said Grace. “I got a lot more friendships, a lot more connections and some good attention. I definitely like the attention.”