STONINGTON — There’s no place on a football field for polished nails.
It’s Sarah Morrison’s stance these days, along with lining up at wide receiver for Stonington High School.
The 5-foot-9, 145-pound junior took off her nail polish for the season. Before games she makes sure her long locks are well hidden underneath her helmet.
She’s the first female football player for Stonington, but opposing teams don’t need to know that.
“I’m really girlie,” said Morrison, who wears No. 29 for junior varsity and No. 33 when she suits up for varsity games. “I wear dresses and high heels to school. I shop in my spare time. But when it comes to football, I don’t want teams to know I’m a girl. That’s why I took my nail polish off.
“Then at the end of games, when we’re shaking hands with the other team and our helmets are off, they always take a second glance at me. They’re like, ‘wait…what?’ It’s fun.”
Her friends had the same reaction when she told them she was going to play football — a decision she made because she likes challenges.
“Don’t tell me I can’t do something,” the 16-year-old said, laughing.
Morrison, who also swims and rows for Stonington, secured a junior varsity spot on the football team after going through summer workouts. Her second official game is today, when the Stonington JV hosts Montville.
“We’ve had other girls say they were going to play, but she actually showed up and went through the workouts,” said the Stonington head coach, A.J. Massengale, who is in his 10th season. “She’s coachable. She wants to learn her position. As long as someone is willing to do the work, we’ll never turn anyone away who wants to play.”
And Morrison doesn’t plan on turning her back on a sport she’s learned to love because of its inherent teamwork and aggressiveness. Her first few workouts were rough, she said. She came home with multiple bruises mostly on her hips and ribs from tackling drills.
“We really don’t treat her any differently than we would treat any other player,” said junior Matt Briggs, a varsity wide receiver and defensive back. “It’s cool she was willing to try a new sport. Not too many girls would want to play football.”
Morrison, who dresses with the girls soccer squad before joining her team for football practice, is one of many young women across the state who have chosen to play the male-dominated sport.
Joel Cookson of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference said there are 22 females on high school football rosters this fall, either on junior varsity or varsity, according to the CIAC eligibility records. The number was 23 during the 2009-10 football season; it dipped to 11 the following year, and increased to 18 during the 2011-12 season.
Last season, 21 females played the sport, including Elisa Formiglio of Norwich Free Academy, who made history when she made an extra point in the state LL championship game. She was the first female player to appear in a CIAC title game.
“I’m really not one of those people who’s all about women’s lib,” Morrison said. “But so many people think football should just be a male sport. Girls can do it, too.”
She’s already won her friends over.
“When I first told my friends they laughed and said, ‘you can’t do that,’” Morrison said, “and my mom was stunned. They couldn’t believe I was actually suiting up with the boys.
“But now they have so much respect for me. And I have so many people I don’t even know coming up to me and saying, ‘you’re the girl who’s playing football.’”