BLACKSVILLE — As the Clay-Battelle football team poured into the locker room following a Thursday morning preseason practice, head coach Ryan Wilson yelled after his athletes. He had something important to tell them.
“Morgan’s in the house,” he shouted.
When the Cee-Bees hear the key phrase, they know not to shed their gear or their clothes — there’s a female present.
Morgan Foley, a C-B junior who is beginning just her second year on the gridiron, will proceed to walk in, grab what she needs from her locker, and head to a different area to change. Wilson will the let the team know that “Morgan’s out of the house,” and business will continue as usual.
Foley, who lines up at both offensive guard and linebacker, is the first female Wilson has coached in his 33 years on the sideline in Blacksville. To him, though, it doesn’t make much of a difference whether she is the first or 50th; he just sees another football player when he looks her way.
“I decided early on that I wasn’t going to make a big deal about it,” Wilson said. “Everyone was like, what about this, what about that; I’m saying, let’s just play football. We just treat her as another football player.”
Foley’s interest in the sport was cultivated via another extracurricular activity — marching band.
“I watched every Friday night in the stands with the band,” she said. “I was doing that for four years, and I kept asking my mom every so often to let me play. Eventually during my sophomore year, I said, ‘Just let me go to one practice and we’ll see what happens.’ We kind of just went from there.”
At first, the physical demands of the football grind caught up hard with Foley. As she progressed, strength and conditioning became less of a problem.
“Keeping up with the running was a challenge. I’m slow and out of shape,” she said. “There was a learning curve and I had to keep up with the pace. I feel like now I have a better grasp. It’s a little easier.”
The other physical issues one might expect Foley to run into, such as an average-sized high school girl clashing with large, bulky lineman on each play, have proven to be non-factors. Foley has continued to impress the coaching staff with her driven work ethic and knack for mastering the fundamentals.
“She does all the drills and things everyone else does, and she works as hard as the others,” Wilson said. “On the line, she has good technique and gives everything she has. She also impresses us in her linebacker stance and getting out into coverage.”
When you’re playing the positions that Foley does, you’re bound to have a lot of physical, aggressive battles. Wilson knows there are certain things you have to do as a player to win those fights. When he watches her play, he sees that see seems to understand that concept well and she knows how to execute.
“She just does the right things. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Everyone who plays in the trenches is going to lose some of those battles; hopefully you win some too. Her doing those little things helps her win those battles.”
Foley knows she carries a lot of weight on her shoulders. When she’s in the game, she’s one of five athletes standing between eleven defenders and her quarterback and running back. Football is a team sport, and if she doesn’t stay consistent in her play, the offense will likely struggle to score the ball.
“I just think to myself, I have to protect these guys. If my quarterback doesn’t have time to throw, or the back doesn’t have the right hole, then I’m not doing my job,” she said.
Foley is preparing for the season by putting more focus on her stamina, and, following her first year of experience, is beginning to feel comfortable with the playbook and the flow of the game.
“It takes time, but once you get into the playbook, you start feeling a rhythm,” she said. “You just start to get it.”