FRESNO — When Dinuba High School arrived at McLane Stadium for its game with Fresno Hoover, it found banners proclaiming "57 Is Great and She's a Girl" and "We Love You, Bridget."
Strange messages for a football stadium, but their meaning became clear late in the third quarter when Hoover scored the game's first touchdown and 5-foot-1 1/2, 100-pound Bridget Farris ran onto the field to kick the point-after-touchdown.
Hoover fans chanted "Brid-get! Brid-get!" and her teammates gave her the 'go' sign as the slender, 16-year-old with brown hair protruding from her helmet placed a flat, rubber kicking tee on the 10-yard line.
The Historic Moment
She took two steps back, three steps to the left and turned to face the tee.
Holder Mike Kandarian kneeled in front of her and center Doug Galley snapped the ball. As it hit Kandarian's hands, Farris started a two-step approach.
"I started getting sweaty and my knees were knocking," said her father, Don, who had been seated in the stands.
Kandarian placed the ball on the tee and Farris whipped her right size-6 football shoe forward. The top knuckle of her big toe banged into the ball and sent it sailing end over end until it fell 10 yards beyond the crossbar.
Farris' coach and teammates rushed onto the field, risking a penalty, and embraced her. Her father grabbed her sister, Brenda, 17, who was wearing Bridget's green-and-white number 57 practice jersey, and jumped up and down. The stands exploded.
"You would have thought we'd won the Super Bowl," Hoover principal Elizabeth Terronez said.
Bedlam erupted because Farris had scored what California Interscholastic Federation authorities believe is the first point by a girl in a California varsity football game.
Ray Ball, former chairman of the National Federation of High School Football Rules Committee, said Bridget's kick on Sept. 20 may mark the first point ever scored by a girl in a varsity football game anywhere.
"There have been so few girls participating," Ball said. "Probably not more than 15 at the varsity level and they usually don't last. I would say there's about a 99% chance that none of them has ever scored."
Lizzie Luna, 14, a candidate for the B team at Westchester High, has become the first girl to try out for a Los Angeles Unified School District football team.
For Farris, making history was relatively easy.
"I was nervous and I wasn't quite sure if I was going to make it," she said, "because I'd gotten a lot of pressure and I wasn't sure how the fans were going to react until I got out there. Then I felt pretty confident. It felt good. It went fast. Once I got out there and set up, I just kicked it."
The attention that followed the kick was more difficult.
Media interviews and classmates' good wishes were a bit too much for her, she said later. A long interview and photo session with Sports Illustrated the day of her second game left her in tears on the school practice field.
That night her only extra-point attempt fell short, and two more in a later game also missed, one bouncing off one of the uprights.
Seated at the dining table in her family's middle-class home last week, Farris said that the attention was much more than she expected.
Surrounded by Cameras
"I felt like everybody was depending on me to make it," she said.
Calmer with the stir she created as the Hoover team (2-2) faced its Thursday night'scontest against McLane, she had been photographed hundreds of times and clearly had developed an intense dislike for cameras.
When a teammate nudged her during a recent game and told her to look at the camera of a sideline photographer, she walked away.
As she warmed up for that game, she asked that no shots be taken. "She's nervous as heck," her coach, Pat Plummer, said.
Farris little anticipated any of these situations when she realized a few years ago that she wanted to play football and decided that her best chance would be as a kicker.
An outstanding soccer player, she read a book on football kicking technique and started practicing last fall.
In the spring she approached Plummer, who had just arrived at the school from Western High School in Tulare, where he had won two championships in the last five years, and asked if she could try out.
"He was very nice about it and didn't say anything," Farris said. "He just treated me like anybody else. He told me when it was and what time spring football started."
Plummer, 35, maintained that attitude in coming months.
"I'm out here having spring practice and I look up and there's a young lady standing in line and ready to do exercises with us," said the 6-foot-3, 230-pound coach, an all conference guard at California State University, Fresno, in the early 1970s. "And you know, I really didn't think anything of it.
"I've been in this thing 13 years and never had a young lady try out. I just went on with things. I knew she was there but I figured she wouldn't be there for long.