MIDDLETOWN — Who said football is not a girls' sport?
In her first year playing tackle football, Middletown quarterback Sierra DeGiorgio made Section 9 history this season, becoming the first female to ever play the position. On Friday, she made her first-ever start and was part of the Middies' 29-14 homecoming victory over Monticello at Middletown High School.
It was their first win of the season.
According to the New York State Sportswriters Association, it is believed that she is the first female quarterback to start for a Class AA school in New York state history.
Middletown coach Tim Strenfel said Thursday "sort of confirmed" the starting nod for DeGiorgio. Backup quarterback Giovanni Bauernfeind was dealing with an injured hamstring, which he pulled in last week's game against Newburgh.
"So we were sort of going back and forth," Strenfel said. "And he just wasn’t able to go. And I had faith in Sierra and she did a great job.”
The Middies received the opening kickoff and then it was her time. Strenfel gave his 5-foot-11, 150-pound starting quarterback of the evening a tap of confidence on her helmet and encouraged her as she made her way out to the team, which waited for her in the huddle. The opening drive consisted of mostly handoffs to her running backs, but she was able to unleash one pass, which was nearly caught for a touchdown. On a third down and long from Monticello territory, DeGiorgio found Julani Graham in the end zone, who dropped the pass.
It was DeGiorgio's only pass attempt of the game. This was her fourth appearance in five of the team's games played thus far.
DeGiorgio played for all of the first quarter and a couple of plays into the second quarter, before Bauernfeind and Idris Daniels, who she plays flag football with, played the remainder of the game under center.
“The boys on the team actually told I me I was starting today in school," she said. "I got nervous, but once I got on the field, all that nervousness went away and I just played the game.”
Strenfel found DeGiorgio postgame and told her, "You earned it."
DeGiorgio had a message for other females who want to play football.
“I want to say just do it," she said. "Do what you want to do. Don’t let anyone else tell you you can’t do anything. I’ve had a couple of people actually tell me that football isn’t a girls’ sport. But yet, here I am, playing on this team, on varsity, with my family.”
Monticello senior defensive end Fabian Clough said he was aware that it was a female quarterback he was facing.
“Anybody can do it," Clough said.
Here is Sierra DeGiorgio's first snap, a handoff. She has yet to throw a pass. Middies are faced with a 3rd and 13 from the Panther 15-yard line. #V845 @SectionIXSports @MiddieAthletics @Mtownfb pic.twitter.com/6ds7xtxXFn
— Melissa Kramer (@MKramerTHR) September 30, 2022
Monticello coach Arthur Johannes said the team "knew it was coming" in regards to facing DeGiorgio.
"Hats off to her," he said. "She did an excellent job. She executed. She carried everything through that she was supposed to. She did a really good job tonight.”
DeGiorgio is also a member of the Middletown varsity softball team. Her coach, Nancy Holbrook, works security at the football games. She has coached DeGiorgio for two years and watched the football game from near from the field.
“Well at first I couldn’t believe she was playing and someone told me she was and I was shocked," Holbrook said. "But it’s awesome. I’m a little nervous. I don’t want her to get hurt, because she is my No. 4 hitter and my starting center fielder, so every time she’s out there I get a little nervous. But I think it’s awesome that she’s playing. She’s a great kid and just the self-confidence that she has to get out on a football field is phenomenal to me. I think it’s awesome.”
Middletown center Cameron Whiley said DeGiorgio is "awesome" and he is "so glad she is on the team."
“We needed this win, and she was our starter and she got us there," he said. "Ultimately, she started and we won the game. That’s all that matters.”
DeGiorgio started playing football after watching her brother Mario's games. Mario is a member of the junior varsity team and usually helps the varsity on the sidelines during games.
For the first time, it was Mario who watched his older sister from the stands.
"I just thought it was pretty cool how the team was like a family and I just wanted to be a part of that, so that’s pretty much how it started," she said.
Her father, Mario, said he and his wife, Cindy, were a bit hesitant on allowing Sierra to play football.
“We were a little nervous, being that we didn’t really want her to play this sport in the beginning," he said. "Obviously the danger of her getting hurt. She plays softball, obviously, but girls against boys this size, it's a little scary. But she pretty much twisted our arm to do it. I told her if she can make it through the summer camp, that it was totally up to her if she wanted to go further."
DeGiorgio loved the summer camp.
"The boys love her being on the team," Mario DeGiorgio said. "And my wife and I just love watching her play. If we’re not working we’re here watching practice and we come to the games. My son is a linebacker on junior varsity, he’s here with us supporting. We totally support her right now. It’s a little scary, but we totally support her.
"The coaches really pushed her to want to keep playing flag football. And then she liked it so much she pretty much told my wife and I she is playing no matter what and playing tackle. We fought with her for two months and it’s her life. I have to let her either fail or succeed on her own. But we’re here to support her.”
Strenfel said he thinks flag football has definitely helped get girls into football.
"And I think it’s a sport now where yes, it’s tough, but if you have the heart and you have the mindset, I think anybody could play," he said.
This article originally appeared on Times Herald-Record: Middletown's Sierra DeGiorgio makes Section 9 football history