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Female linebacker makes history for Boca Raton in victory

In the last minute of Boca Raton’s 14-6 win over Spanish River Monday night, coach Eric Davis sent his newest player into the game.

Her name is Hannah Pratt.

He put the senior in to play linebacker and try to hold the Sharks and secure the win. Spanish River completed a pass to Sam Burton over the middle, and he turned up field — right toward Pratt.

“That’s a big boy,” Pratt thought. “I was a little scared.”

Pratt, a second-team All-Area pick and starting forward for Boca Raton’s state-championship basketball team last season, made the tackle in her debut at linebacker for the Bobcats varsity football team. Pratt is the first Palm Beach County girl to play a skill position for a varsity football team — at least in recent memory.

“It meant a lot because, you know, I’m a chick,” Pratt said, laughing. “Not a lot of girls get the opportunity to play boys football, and I’m just happy that coach Davis gave me this chance.”

ADVERTISINGPratt was originally supposed to play wide receiver — she played one snap at the position on the game’s last play — because she is 6-foot-1 and her younger brother, Michael, is the starting quarterback for the Bobcats (3-2). But with Spanish River (1-4) keeping the score close and the game winding down, Davis put her in at linebacker first.

“Yes, (I was) very worried,” Pratt said. “I wanted to get in because I love sports. I just wanted to play.”

Said Davis: “I know she earned a right to get out there and perform, and so I wanted to give her an opportunity.

“To see her out there and actually making a play and hearing the crowd call her name, all the players accepted her as another player; you didn’t know anything different. So that’s what was really special about it.”

Pratt said she didn’t know if she would play football for the Bobcats again, but she’s not opposed to the idea.

“If coach Davis wants me to come out some more,” she said, “I’ll do whatever.”

The history of girls playing Palm Beach County varsity football is short. Katrina Sorenson kicked for Atlantic in 2000, and Beth Locklair kicked for Royal Palm Beach in 2001, according to Locklair and Palm Beach Post archives. Yetta Greene, the Palm Beach County Athletic Administrator, also recalled girls playing for John I. Leonard and Spanish River, but she did not know their names or what years they played.

In Broward County, Holly Neher, a female quarterback, is playing for Hollywood Hills this season.

“I’m still in shock myself,” Pratt said last Wednesday. “I never thought this would actually happen.”

Pratt has been playing football in the backyard since she was a child.

“As a kid, I always wanted to play football,” she said. “We would play football, like it would be one-on-one, me and my brother, and my older brother would be the quarterback.”

Pratt’s first sport is basketball. She plans on going to Columbia to play the sport. But she’s dabbled with football since arriving at Boca Raton, playing varsity flag football her freshman and sophomore years, making the Post’s All-Area first team in 2016, but Michael said she stopped playing so she could stay healthy for basketball.

She and Michael were tossing the football around after the Bobcats’ win in their preseason game at Parkland-Douglas, and she thought she would give the sport a try. She asked Davis if she could suit up, and he was all for it.

“She was up to the task,” Davis said. “She’s willing, she’s excited about it. … She definitely has the right spirit. I wish I had 40 or 50 kids that had that type of spirit.”

Pratt said she didn’t think too much about what a girl playing a position other than kicker in varsity boys football meant in the grand scheme of things, but she did enjoy the experience.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I wouldn’t really recommend it for all the girls, but just for one game, it’s a great opportunity.”

Davis, on the other hand, thought it meant a lot.

“For me,” Davis said, “her being in the game was a little bit bigger than the game tonight.”

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