Tyler Takeda/The Madera Tribune
Liberty defensive lineman Marissa Ortiz battles with a Firebaugh lineman during an early-season game. Ortiz is Liberty’s first-ever female football player.
With Senior night approaching for the Liberty Hawks football team, 15 boys will be honored — along with one girl.
After two years of playing football for the Liberty Hawks football team, Marissa Ortiz considers herself as just one of the boys.
Ortiz has played two years on the varsity football team as a backup playing on the defensive line. She is the first female to play for the Hawks football team.
“I’m just one of the boys,” she said. “They are not different. They don’t change when I’m around and I’m fine with that.”
Ortiz is the only female lineman in the Central Section and probably in its history. She said she can’t kick, is not fast enough to play receiver or can remember plays.
“Offense, you have to be on it and know plays,” she said. “I’m not good at memorizing things. Defense is best for me because you have to go to one place. I’m not fast enough to play receiver or good enough to kick.”
She went out for the football team because her friends were on the team and convinced her to play. She enjoys being a part of a family and loves her ‘brothers.’
“I like being part of the family,” she said. “The boys are the ones that have made me want to be a part of football all these years. I never thought anything of doing football before.”
Being a female lineman has been difficult for Ortiz the past two years. Because of her size (5 feet, 5 inches), she doesn’t get to play much. When she does, she has a tough time against her male counterparts.
“It’s definitely challenging,” she said. “When I go up to the line, the boys are bigger than me. You have to keep on pushing and trying hard. These games have been tough for me. I just try to power my way through and try to be the best for my team.”
It’s a challenge for Ortiz because she knows she won’t be as strong as the players she lines up across.
“It gets to me sometimes because I know I’m not going to be stronger than the boys on the other team,” she said. “I still work myself up to at least being close to where they are at. I try to push myself.”
Although she is in full uniform and her long hair is in her helmet, Ortiz believes the players on the other team knows she is a girl.
“The guys I line up across know I’m a girl,” she said. “I feel like I look like one of the guys. They see through my helmet and see my face.”
She is also a member of the Liberty track team throwing discus and shot put.
“Football has helped me get a lot stronger for track,” she said. “
Ortiz said she will miss being part of the football family when the season is over and she will graduate next year.
“Being a senior, it hasn’t hit me yet that this is my last year,” she said. “Being able to play with these boys and brothers for the last few years have been special. When it comes to senior night, it will hit me real hard.”
“It feels good to play with the boys and not getting treated different,” Ortiz said.