BALLSTON SPA — Sometimes, Sierra Delaney’s friends still forget.
So, they’ll ask her.
“You going to the football game this week?”
And Delaney smiles, laughs and delivers her stock answer.
“Yes,” she reminds them, “I’ll be in the game.”
Like, in uniform and everything.
“She went through the whole ranks with us,” Ballston Spa football head coach Ray Toohey said earlier this week as his team prepared for its Section II Class A game Friday at Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake. “She’s just one of us.”
Delaney, a 17-year-old senior at Ballston Spa, has played football for as long as she can remember. A fan of the New York Giants, Delaney started off playing as a young kid in local youth leagues. Once she reached eighth grade, she joined her school’s modified team and started to climb through the program’s levels.
“I just always wanted to play,” Delaney said. “I signed up and I never stopped.”
It has become more common for girls to suit up for football teams in recent years. Last year, 158 girls played school football in New York at some level according to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s records. Fifteen of those players competed for Section II schools.
What Delaney does on the football field, though, is still relatively rare. Girls on high school football rosters, at least locally, tend to compete most often as kickers. Delaney, who stands 6 feet tall and weighs 175 pounds, plays split end and defensive end for the Scotties.
“And the guys don’t really take it easy on me,” said Delaney, a second-year varsity player whose long hair flows well outside of her helmet. “As soon as they know I can hit back just as hard, they’re OK with it.”
Senior teammate Zach Washington said Delaney doesn’t receive any special treatment at practice from her coaches or teammates. Washington, a senior running back and defensive lineman, has seen Delaney take big hits and deliver ones of her own to teammates in practice and opponents in games.
“We treat everyone equally here,” Washington said. “But she can definitely dish it out.”
Delaney, too, serves as one of Ballston Spa’s backup punters.
“She’s just always trying to help the team,” Toohey said.
That is normal for Delaney, regardless of the sports season she is participating in at the moment. A three-sport athlete, Delaney also plays basketball and lacrosse. While she hopes to play hoops in college, Delaney just picked up lacrosse within the last year. That team, Ballston Spa girls’ lacrosse head coach Don Nowc said, was in need of a starting goalie this past spring and Delaney volunteered to fill the spot.
“She was already friends with a lot of our girls. She just jumped right into goal for us,” said Nowc, who previously had coached Delaney with the school’s JV football team. “She stepped right in. She had never really touched a lacrosse stick before.”
Playing football has become more difficult physically each year, Delaney said, but that hasn’t decreased her desire to play the sport or the excitement she feels when she takes the field on a Friday night under the lights.
“That’s amazing,” Delaney said. “That’s what I love the most.”
On the football field, Delaney provides depth for the Scotties. She regularly plays a valuable role for the squad as a member of the scout team, the group that simulates the upcoming opponent’s plays in practices.
“Sometimes, you struggle to get kids to volunteer for that,” Toohey said. “She’s always one of the first kids to do that.”
“She’s a hard worker,” Washington said. “She’s a great inspiration, too, for the rest of the team to always try harder.”
A strong work ethic is what Delaney has become known for in her time competing with the Ballston Spa football program. In many ways, Toohey said he considers her to be a model player for his program.
“I always say that respect is never free, it’s always earned,” Toohey said. “She’s someone who clearly has earned a lot of respect.”