Female kicker hopes to play a role for defending state champs
The Dakota football team made a new addition over the spring and she’s hoping to make an impact this season.
That’s right ... she.
Mackenzie Wenger, sister of former Indians running back Matt Wenger, is one of two kickers on the roster. Dakota coach Jerry Lano said that not since current Freeport coach Terry Werntz was coaching for Dakota has there been a female on the football team.
Lano and John Wenger, Mackenzie and Matt’s father, talked briefly about her possibly playing for the team because of her soccer background. And what was first just an idea became an invitation for her to become a member of the team.
“John brought it up to me and I just toyed with it in the back of my mind,” Lano said. “But the more I heard about it ... I ended asking her about it and I made it her decision.”
Obviously the answer was “yes.” When her older brother found out, Wenger said Wednesday, he wasn’t so sure if his little sister should play in such a tough spot.
“With him being a male, he was kind of cold to the idea at first,” she said. “But in the end he wanted to me to be successful at this just like he was.”
Lano added: “She did catch some flack early on about it but she’s very tough. I made her do tackling drills and she wanted to do more. She’s always loved football and wanted to be involved with it and she’s a pretty good kicker.”
Wenger will compete with fellow junior Todd Rupnow, who kicked sparingly in the 2007 season. Dakota finished the season with a perfect 14-0 record last year en route to a state championship.
Lano thinks that Rupnow and Wenger competing for the spot will bring the best out of both of them, especially since the coach will use both throughout the season based on the situation.
“It might come to a point where both of them kick, but she will kick,” she said. “I might say she will kick at one point and Todd will kick a different time. It’s all in my mind and what I feel good with at that time. And both of them know that. I think this could also push Todd a little bit harder, which is good.”
Wenger finished her first full practice with the team Wednesday. And just like everyone else, she participated in drills and ran with the team. One player even got ribbed by a coach because Wenger was close to beating him during the final running drills of practice.
“I noticed it too and it kind of made me feel good,” she said. “I know girls aren’t usually as fast as guys, but it gave me motivation.”
Wenger said her first practice went relatively well, and she made a majority of her field goals. Unlike in the off-season, though, the junior was more winded after running and tackling drills.
“It was tough but I got a really good feeling of just being out here,” Wenger said. “It was rewarding in the end.”