PHOENIXVILLE - After watching Alex Wertman perform in the annual Powder Puff football game last year, Phoenixville High head coach Bill Furlong approached the girls’ soccer player about also becoming a kicker as part of the Phantoms’ football team this season.
Wertman decided to accept the invitation to join, and now the Phoenixville senior has become a regular kicking extra points for the Phantom gridders this fall. She has made five of six attempts, only missing on her initial try.
“All the guys have been real supportive,” said Wertman. “It was cool. I thought it would be good. It has been very positive with all the guys on the team.”
Besides Furlong, Wertman said assistant coach Don Jackson has been quite helpful with the plan as well as former assistant coach Kevin McLemore.
“They have backed me up,” said Wertman. “They have been out on the field and trust me. They don’t look at me as a girl. I am just another kid on the team. All the kids at school think it’s cool.”
She has had to deal with the project during the same fall season since both soccer and football are sports that are played during the fall months of the year. The transition of going back and forth in both sports during practices and games has been the difficult part of the endeavor.
Wertman admits she had jitters in the beginning and felt nervous about being a kicker on the football team. But it has been a quick transition, and now she has settled in quite nicely as a member of the squad and just doing her everyday work kicking as part of the team.
“I got over that (nervousness),” she said. “Everything has gone smoothly so far.”
The Phantoms have now developed a solid kicking game with Cole Luzins handling the kickoffs and punts and Wertman doing the extra points. Ian Brown and Luzins have been holders for Wertman on placements while Tim Alati has been doing the snaps for the kicks since Jason Waltman was injured early in the season. Waltman, who is also an offensive lineman and linebacker, suffered a broken hand earlier in the season, but he may be ready to return to action as soon as the Oct. 25 home game against Upper Perkiomen.
“Cole is very good,” said Wertman. “They want me for the quick kicks and squibs. Cole has the power. He can hit it 40, 50 or 60 yards (on punts) and has good kickoffs. I have more power up the middle on extra points. We have a really good system and it has worked out well.”
The soccer background has been the origin for many of today’s kickers in football. Many boys have used their soccer skills to also aid the football team at the same time at numerous high schools. That soccer background has also been important for Wertman in becoming a competitive placekicker for the Phantoms’ football team in 2013.
“I have the form and power in my legs,” said Wertman. “I would never have been as good at it without soccer. A lot of thanks for what I am doing in football goes to soccer. That is a lot of why I have been able to do this.”
Wertman would also like to try a field goal if the situation arises. She feels her range would be in the 30-33-yard mark.
“I would like to try it,” said Wertman. “I think i could do it. I will do anything to try and get points for the team. I want to help the team get a win. That’s what I am all about.”
There is the safety and danger issue involved with a girl playing a rough sport like football, but the Phantoms have been careful to put Wertman in a safe setting. Also, she is accustomed to contact from playing another contact sport like girls’ soccer that is rough in itself. So getting tackled by an opposing player would not be brand new for Wertman.
“I never think about it,” she said. “If I do get tackled, I know the boys will back me up. So there will be no cheap shots. It has been pretty interesting. I don’t worry about it. The team has my back. It is all in good fun.”
Wertman has been accepted by opposing teams, too, for the most part. However, she said one of the boy players told her that after one of the games, one foe asked if there indeed was a girl on the Phoenixville team. The Phantom promptly answered “yes” asked the other player if he had a problem with that in order to offer support for Wertman’s work.
“It has been so cool to be able to perform and fun,” she said. “Some people talked to my parents about it after the Pottsgrove game.”
Actually, since Wertman is small in stature at 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds, people often do not realize she is a girl until she takes her helmet off after the game is over and people see her long hair. Until then, she often passes as just another physically small player among the masses on the football team standing on the sidelines.
Wertman feels thankful for the opportunity and never wants to give up the chance.
Next year, Wertman plans to attend the University of Richmond with a double major in psycholorgy and biology with a concentration in neurosciences. She is already looking forward to mingling with fraternity boys. She will be able to have conversations with those who are or were high school football players because of her experiences with the Phoenixville gridders this year.
Part of the project has Wertman being able to wear a regular Phoenixville football team jacket.
“I will be able to say ‘You have your brothers and I have my brothers,’ “ said Wertman.