PORTSMOUTH – High school football players do a lot of nonsense talking to their opponents to try and intimidate them.
A Portsmouth High football player attending a college junior game said: “Once a guy said to me, ‘I’m going to kick your ass in the next game. So I was like, ‘I would like you to try,’ said Grace Duclos from Portsmouth.
“They don’t realize I’m a girl until after the game. I’ve had a few guys like, “Oh, are you a girl?” A lot of them don’t realize it until I take my helmet off.
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Duclos, an undersized offensive and defensive lineman nicknamed by his teammates the “football first lady”, is a junior on the roster who has yet to play in a college game. She has played almost every junior varsity game and expressed her disapproval to varsity head coach Dustin Almeida for not playing her in the main event.
“She’s not happy with me. She wants to start college, ”Almeida said. “She just isn’t here yet, but that’s the mindset you want her and everyone to have. She’s good and she’s smart. She’s hard as nails. She’s in the weight room with us, sitting and squatting.
Two other girls – second-year defensive back Mackenzie Tripp and first-year defensive lineman Laramae Platt – knew Duclos was on the squad and now they too are on Team JV.
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“She’s a really great role model to follow,” Tripp said of Duclos. “She’s been playing for so long and she has the respect of so many people because of it. A girl can play any sport that a guy does.
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Duclos played Pop Warner in Middletown from the age of 10. She has played football every year since, including the last three at Portsmouth High.
“My dad was a little surprised that I wanted to do this,” said Duclos. “My brother (Angel Duclos) was doing it. When he was playing Pop Warner for Portsmouth, I said to him, “Sounds fun to hit a few guys.”
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“My dad loves it. My mom just loved that I had brothers, not like I didn’t have any at home. But there are more here.
Platt developed a taste for the game early in life, but never officially entered the sport until this fall. “Every time I came home from school I would go out and play with friends. I found it really fun, ”she said.
“I just like sports. You get to connect with people. Everyone is nice. The older guys give me advice on how to do certain exercises and the like. It’s actually a lot of fun and honestly my mom just wants me to have fun.
Tripp is a resident of Little Compton who played many sports in college. This is his first foray into football.
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“I watched football for a while and it seemed like a lot of fun,” said Tripp. “Some friends told me to go there, give it a try and supported me on it. That’s how I ended up here. So I tried it and fell in love with it. .
“At first my mom was a little scared because I’m here with all these big guys. But I mean, I had an uncle who was playing and he was super excited about it. They all loved the idea. They love to say to everyone they meet, “My daughter is playing soccer”.
These girls aim to improve their skills
Six years after her first game, Duclos said she preferred to play on the defensive line rather than the offensive line.
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“On offense, I have to learn a lot more,” said Duclos. “I like the defense better. I prefer to go out and knock. It’s a tear, do whatever you have to do to get over the line and for whoever has the ball.
“My goal is definitely to get more on the pitch and really, like, I want to hit harder. I want to learn how to. I want to expand my capabilities.
Tripp, after getting rid of the pre-game nerves, played sparingly in a pair of JV games.
“At first it was really scary to think about it,” she said. “But once you’re on the pitch you have so much responsibility. Your head is so full of them that you don’t really think you are afraid of everyone.
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“And because I’ve played so many sports, I kind of understand the responsibility you have when you come out on the court or the court. At the end of the day it was so much fun I just had to keep doing it.
Tripp could see more playing time, according to comments from coach Almeida.
“She’s smart as a whip. In just two weeks, she announces the passing routes from her position (defensive back), ”said Almeida. “She understands everything. She’s young, but a quick study.”
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Girls on the grill and part of the team
The three Portsmouth girls have 58 male teammates ranging from grade one to senior class and have been treated like peers.
“Nobody said anything like, ‘Oh, she’s a girl, she can’t do this,’” said Tripp. “They are all super united. They don’t treat you any differently because you’re a girl.
Veteran Duclos can certainly attest to that.
“It’s a whole team. It’s not just one person, ”said Duclos. “You all work together to make a play. You all work together to score. You all work together to do it all.
“I like it for the discipline, the family. I grew up with most of them, so they’re like brothers. I’m basically treated like one of the boys at this point.