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History maker: Hannah Baughman breaks barrier for Louisville football

At the 30-minute mark of a recent soccer game against Marlington, Louisville junior Hannah Baughman got a clear look at the goal, took a shot and … airmailed it through the uprights

She knew immediately what was coming.

“They were like, ‘wrong sport’ and ‘this isn’t football,’” she said. “I get it all the time.”

And that’s just from her teammates. Welcome to Baughman’s world, where being one of the best players on one of the best soccer teams in the Northeastern Buckeye Conference can get overshadowed by her other job: kicker on the football team.

Baughman has made 16 of 18 on extra points this season, including a 6-for-6 outing in Friday’s 53-0 win over Minerva. She also made her first career field goal, a 28-yarder, after missing her first two attempts this season for the Leopards, who are 3-2.

In a Week 1 win over Canfield, Baughman made all three of her extra point attempts to become the first girl in school history to score a point for the football team. Even better, her last attempt stretched Louisville’s lead from three points to four, forcing Canfield to try (and ultimately fail) to score a touchdown late in the Leopards’ 21-17 win.

“Someone told me after the Canfield game, ‘Hey, she was the first female to ever score in the history of Louisville,’ but I never thought about that,” Louisville coach John DeMarco said. “To me, she was just a kicker who went 3-for-3. She had a job to do and she did it. She wasn’t making history. She just did her job.”

Baughman’s story actually begins a few years ago, when Louisville’s starting kicker got hurt late in the season. The girls soccer team had a game after football practice and, as the Leopards warmed up, DeMarco noticed one of the players was booming kicks.

It was Baughman’s older sister, Rachel, who now plays soccer for the University of Akron.

“We thought there was a possibility that she could kick for us,” DeMarco said. “But we didn’t think it was a good idea to open ourselves up to taking someone late in the season, where anybody who wanted to play could just walk onto the team.

“It had nothing to do with her talent level or the fact that she was female. It was just more about setting a precedent for the program.”

Fast forward to last fall’s postseason NBC banquet, where DeMarco invited Hannah Baughman to try out for the football team along with a few other kickers. Baughman first worked one-on-one with Louisville’s kicking coach, Dustin Nicholas, then kicked in front of the team.

“That first camp day, I was so nervous, I just kept my head down and kicked,” Baughman said. “The guys obviously had a stronger leg than me but I had better accuracy.

“At at the end of the day, a bunch of the players texted me and Snapchatted me saying, ‘Hey, good job. You did really well.’ There were a few guys who weren’t real accepting of it when they first heard about it, but now everyone has been real supportive.”

And not just the players, either.

“What’s nice is the community supports her,” said Baughman’s mother, Laurie. “It’s amazing. The young girls look up to her.”

Of course, that might change if she starts missing her kicks.

“Oh yeah, we wouldn’t be coming,” Laurie said, laughing. “We’d be hiding.”

Baughman had her first field goal attempt of the season in Week 3, but missed a 35-yarder against Fitch.

“She had her head down as she was walking off the field and I said, ‘Hey, get your head up. We don’t mope off the field,’” DeMarco said. “Right now, I think she feels more pressure than most kickers because she is a female. When she misses, she feels like she let everyone down.

“I tell her, ‘You’re just part of the team. Do your job and we’ll do ours.’”

Although Baughman has made a 42-yard field goal in practice, she feels comfortable from about 35 yards in. (“She can make 40, but her consistency drops a lot out there,” DeMarco said.) Although soccer and football require different techniques — “You have to lean back (in football) instead of leaning forward,” Baughman said — she can switch back and forth fairly easily.

“With soccer, I don’t have to adjust to anything,” said Baughman, who has scored eight goals for the 7-1-1 Leopards. “I’ve been playing it my whole life, so I just go out and play.

“Football, when I warm up, I’m bad at first. But once I warm up, I’m fine.”

Although Baughman is making history at Louisville, there have been plenty of female kickers before her, both in Stark County and elsewhere. Last year, there were 1,964 girls playing 11-man football in the United States and 245 in Ohio, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Carrollton also has a female kicker, senior Taylor Keefer. She holds the school record for most PATs in a game (seven) and was the Homecoming Queen last weekend. And a decade ago, McKinley had a girl, Rachel Dovidio, who saw varsity playing time as a non-kicker on special teams.

(This year’s Bulldogs even have a female coach in Syrina Richardson.)

Baughman will stick to kicking, though. When asked what she would do if the ball ended up in her hands, she laughed and said she’ll drop to the ground.

“I’m not breaking anything,” she said. “I don’t want to get tackled.”

She’s not interested in being the tackler, either, which her father appreciates.

“In high school, the extra point is a dead ball so we don’t have to worry about it,” Bob Baughman said. “With a field goal, she knows that if it gets blocked, that’s just the way it’s going to be. She’s not tackling no 250-pound kid.”

Other than that, Baughman is happy just to blend in.

“To tell you the truth, sometimes I forget that she’s a girl,” DeMarco said.

Not everyone does. At halftime of that Marlington soccer game, as Baughman grabbed some water and a 10-minute break, two young girls from Louisville ran out on the field and practiced their kicks.

But they weren’t using a soccer ball. They were using a football.

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