A high school senior is believed to have become the first girl to play quarterback in a Florida regular-season game, taking two snaps Friday night.
Erin DiMeglio, the third-stringer from South Plantation High School, checked in with about 1:40 left in her team’s 31-14 win over Nova. Both of her snaps came from the shotgun formation, and she handed the ball off each time before being replaced in the final seconds.
While no official records are kept on what positions girls have played in the past on Florida high school teams — about 500 girls have suited up for boys’ squads across the state over the years — DiMeglio is presumed to be the first quarterback to get on the field.
"I just do my own thing," DiMeglio said after the game, as about a dozen reporters and cameras surrounded her. "It’s a lot of attention, but I just kind of don’t worry about that much."
Fans were chanting "Put Erin in! Put Erin in!" during the final minutes, after South Plantation went up by 17 points in the fourth quarter. The two quarterbacks ahead of her on the team’s depth chart played first, but the loudest ovation of the night seemed to be when DiMeglio checked into the game.
"God bless her," South Plantation coach Doug Gatewood said. "She handles it better than anybody else. She goes on the field, she has single-minded focus. It’s crazy. It’s great publicity for the school, it’s a positive thing, but at the end of the day that’s not why we did it. We did it because she’s a legitimate third-string quarterback."
Gatewood is also the flag football coach at South Plantation, and urged DiMeglio to work out with the boys’ varsity last spring, saying she had a good enough arm to compete. From there, the idea was born to have her try and actually be on the team, and Gatewood eventually convinced her parents, Tom and Kathleen DiMeglio, that the potential positives outweighed any risks.
Her teammates have supported her without any reservation, Gatewood said. And DiMeglio has won them over with ease, first by being a star member of the school’s girls basketball team, then after football exploits such as throwing five touchdown passes in a 7-on-7 tournament against boys this summer.
She didn’t throw any passes on Friday night. With her team up big in the final moments, she didn’t have to, either.
"It was exciting," said DiMeglio’s sister, Amy DiMeglio, who was on the sideline with her parents. "I think any exposure during the game is good. You saw how the crowd reacted. People are getting more comfortable with the idea. Some people blog about her and there’s negative comments, some inappropriate comments. People need to get over her being a girl and just look at her abilities. That’s what she wants."