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Published October 16, 2013, 10:00 PM

Beyond the Game: Fargo North freshmen football team features female player

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Tonight we introduce a new weekly segment on WDAY Sports, called Beyond the Game, where we'll go away from the scores and stats. And tonight, we introduce you to a Fargo North football player who's definitely not your typical freshman.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Tonight we introduce a new weekly segment on WDAY Sports, called Beyond the Game, where we'll go away from the scores and stats. And tonight, we introduce you to a Fargo North football player who's definitely not your typical freshman.

It's a beautiful fall evening in North Dakota. The freshmen from North are playing Davies. To most observers, number 26 for the Spartans looks like any other player awaiting their chance to get in the game. It's not until the helmet comes off you see something is a little different.

McKayla Barke: ‘It doesn't bother me that I'm the only girl.”

Brad Barke: “In 5th grade, she said, ‘Dad, I wanna play football.’ I said, ‘Really?’”

McKayla: “My mom let me try it for a year and I ended up liking it.”

When McKayla Barke started playing football in 5th grade, there were only two other girls in the entire league. Now there's typically one every season. Barke's now in her fifth year of football, and she's the only female on a freshman team in the metro.

Brad Barke: “I was nervous because the boys keep getting bigger, and she might get undersized. But she holds her own.”

McKayla: “I don't mind getting hit or getting a scuff or bruise. When I go to school with bruises on my arm, people ask me and I just say ‘football.’”

McKayla's parents are both 100-percent behind her playing. But it's only Dad that comes to the games.

Brad Barke: “My wife? She always has a feeling McKayla's going to come home in a cast. It hasn't happened yet. She's hurt herself more at home than playing football.”

Kris Dougherty is one of McKayla's coaches at North.

Kris Dougherty: “It's all positive. There's not one negative side to it. We told her from day one we're going to coach you the same way and that's what she expects. She doesn't expect people to take it easy on her because she's a girl.”

Dougherty also coaches girls hockey, and says he sees something similar in females that play more physical sports.

Dougherty: “I don't think it's aggressiveness. They just want to compete in a way that's more satisfying than, say, volleyball, where there's not as much physical contact. They're not out to prove anything. They just have a love for the sport, which she has for football.”

McKayla: “Sometimes after a game, a coach pulls me aside and tells me he's amazed a girl is playing football at this stage. It makes me feel really good.”

Nick Braaten, North Freshman quarterback: “I think it's pretty cool. She's a big inspiration - like if you want to do something, go out and do it.”

As for whether she'll play next year as a sophomore, McKayla says she's still undecided, but leaning towards playing.

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