A girl with long blonde hair in a ponytail and painted fingernails emerges from a side door at Bethlehem Academy in Faribault on a sunny afternoon last week.
She walks straight west 10 yards and passes underneath a set of goalposts positioned parallel to the outside wall of the school.
About 10 yards beyond the goalposts, she turns to face them. She carefully walks backward and sideways several steps, then stares down at a football held by sophomore Kollin Hanson.
She pauses, then takes a run at the ball and drills it through the uprights. This process is repeated about 15 or 20 times in a span of several minutes.
How many kicks did she make?
“All of them,” she said, matter-of-factly.
This girl, who likes to wear designer jeans and Ugg boots, is the kicker for the boys varsity squad at the Catholic school. Her main job is to kick extra points for a team that qualified for the state tournament two years in a row. In fact, she kicked four in the Section 1A finals against Blooming Prairie, a 28-20 win.
“We tied it up 20-20 with about three minutes to go in the game and she put us ahead 21-20,” said head coach Scott Hanson, Kollin’s father, who also is the school’s dean of students. “Then, we ended up scoring one more touchdown because we intercepted a pass and then scored. So, we won by eight, 28-20. Theoretically, it could have came down [to her kick]. That’s how important kickers are.”
And, that’s precisely why Hanson never hesitated when junior Lexi Temple approached him at church the summer after her ninth-grade year to ask if she could try out for the job. They both attend First Lutheran in Faribault. The seed was planted when her father, Troy, had several conversations with Hanson before that.
Did Hanson have any reservations about having a girl on his squad?
“Absolutely not. We embraced it,” Hanson said. “I said, ‘Here, take some footballs and try it. Make sure it’s something you want to do.’ We never just threw her out to the wolves. We really progressed her slow. We made her feel real comfortable when she came. We always kept encouraging her.”
The team ended up advancing to the state semifinals, where its season ended with a 19-0 loss to defending state champion Mahnomen Nov. 16.
No matter. She will have one more chance next year when she’s a senior. The job is hers, based on strong character and refined kicking skills. She made 39 of 43 extra-point attempts this season. Not bad for someone who was anything but comfortable when she walked onto the practice field for the first time at the start of her sophomore year.
“I was really nervous when I first came out just because it’s a ton of guys,” said Temple, who also plays on the girls varsity soccer team at B.A. “But, it all ended up working so good. They’re all like my brothers and I love them all and I love being at practice.”
There was a brief adjustment phase at the beginning, with some teammates feeling a little awkward at first. But, her bright personality – and accurate kicks – won them over.
“At first, I was shocked,” said senior Garrett Mayer, a team captain who plays center on offense and linebacker on defense. “But, she came out and proved herself, that she’s better than our kickers that are guys. So, she can kick. She can definitely play. She’s playing now and she’s doing really well. Everyone’s really supportive of her. We all have to block for her, and she makes [her kicks] all the time. So, it’s working well up there.”
In addition to crossing gender lines, Temple is also crossing denominational lines. Though Lutheran, she has warmed to the Catholic faith to the point of getting involved in the Youth Evangelization Team at Divine Mercy in Faribault. Not only has she helped Catholic kids grow in their faith, she has come to a deeper appreciation of the Church.
“I think the Catholic faith is beautiful and I’ve really enjoyed getting to learn more about it,” she said. “I’ve really learned. . . how big of a community we have as Christians.”