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Florida girl looks to play the field as first in quarterback role for high school football team

When girls break down the high school football barrier and get on the field, it's usually to kick extra points. But when Erin DiMeglio gets in the game, she's calling signals.

The 17-year-old from Florida drew cheers when she went in to play quarterback in the fourth quarter of South Plantation High School's final pre-season game Friday, and if she takes a snap in the regular season, she'll make Sunshine State history. 

"I couldn't take the smile off my face," DiMeglio told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. "You'd think the other team would want to know why I'm there, but other players have been great. After the game, they shook my hand and said it was great I was playing football."

With her ponytail tucked inside her helmet, the 5-foot-6, 160-pound DiMeglio completed two passes against Seminole Ridge, calling the plays and staying safe in the pocket.

"Since she's a girl, you don't want her to get hurt," lineman Kevin Avila told the paper. "We want to have more protection for her."

State records show 523 girls have participated in Florida high school football games as placekickers, receivers, defensive backs and, according to the Sun-Sentinel, there's even been one who played on the offensive line. But nobody remembers ever seeing a girl playing the game's most critical position.

"We've had girls in South Florida that had the ability to [play quarterback], but they never have," said Larry Blustein, a high school football analyst who has covered the state for 42 years. "You have to give her credit. I've never seen anything like this before."

South Plantation Coach Doug Gatewood told the paper he knew DiMeglio was a good athlete because she stars on the school's girls basketball team. He said having her on the team is no stunt.

"I had a girl try out at wide receiver that couldn't make it through practice and I had a kicker that really couldn't make a field goal, so I didn't keep them," Gatewood said. "Erin can actually do what we ask of her...she completes the passes I ask, she knows the plays. ... Anything I ask her to do, she does."

DiMeglio has yet to get hit or make a tackle, but her parents understand that's part of football. As the team's third-string quarterback, she knows she may not get much playing time unless South Plantation is winning big.

Click for more at South Florida Sun-Sentinel.