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Trailblazing Trio: Gage Park changing the face of high school football with female players

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CHICAGO (WLS) — When Gage Park High School alums Dominique Robinson, Janile Marino and Jamiya Cochran suited up last season for the Owls, they knew they had a lot to prove.

“Peers around me said that females can’t play ball. So I had told my mom about it and then my mom and grandma encouraged me to play football,” Marino said.

Head football coach Michael Norwood recalls when they first approached him about trying out for the team.

“I was like ‘OK, fine, let’s play football then,’ and I didn’t know they were going to come out and make an impact on the field,” he said.

“Don’t judge a book by its cover, they did better than some guys,” said football player Justice Ivel.

But like all players, it took some time for them to find their stride.

“My first game, oh my goodness,” Robinson said.

“I used to be scared sometimes to hit, but then I got used to it,” Marino said.

On game day last season, Norwood would give the opposing team’s coaching staff a heads up about his atypical roster.

“I tell them, I have a few females on the team and they look like, shocked,” he said.

This season the team has three female players on their squad. Ahead of their first game, wide receiver Lashonda Washington has already gained the respect of her teammates.

“I showed them that I can catch the ball and I showed them I can run,” she said.

And if any of their competitors see having female players as a disadvantage, the team has this to say.

“It’s going to be good because we are going to show them why we have girls on our team,” football player Keith Santana said.

The team has their first game of the season Saturday.

Robinson, Marino and Cochran are hoping more girls give football a shot.

“For the females that do want to play sports, boys’ sports, go out there and show that you are supposed to be there,” Cochran said.

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