Abigail Ojemann was sitting at home late Friday night. Her ankle was wrapped in ice, numb from the cold and swollen, but she did not lament for an instant how she had spent the first few hours of her weekend.
She joined the varsity football team at Concord-Carlisle High this season as the first female player in the program’s history, and has already won the respect of her teammates for her ability, and poise, as the Patriots’ place-kicker.
Ojemann knew that bumps and bruises — in this case, an ankle sprain — might come with the territory. More importantly to her, though, the Patriots had just finished off an 8-7 win over rival Bedford to move their record to a perfect 3-0.
Life was good, all things considered.
“No regrets,” said Ojemann, a senior. “Even if I had broken my ankle, there would be no regrets.”
After the Patriots scored a touchdown in the second quarter, Ojemann was called onto the field to tie the game. For Ojemann, it was just another kick. She had made five extra points against Lexington in her team’s 35-18 win the week before, and she was named special teams captain for the Bedford game.
After the ball was snapped, though, Ojemann sensed a Bedford player quickly bearing down on her as she made her move toward the ball. Bracing herself for contact, she kicked through the ball, sending it wide of the goal posts, just before the defender collided with her left leg.
Moments later, a penalty was called for roughing the kicker.
Running on a wave of adrenaline, Ojemann thought she might be able to attempt a second try, but her coaches decided to go for a two-point conversion instead. A pass from sophomore quarterback Austin Hoey to junior Andrew Kielar was completed for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Having already won the respect of her peers during their offseason workouts and practices, Ojemann drew nothing but praise from teammates after she took her first big hit.
Her kicking-unit partners — long-snapper Adrian Diromualdo and Hoey, who serves as the holder — have been especially impressed by Ojemann’s transition from varsity soccer goalie to place kicker.
“I was kind of surprised when she said she wanted to play,” said Diromualdo, a senior captain. “ It has taken a lot of courage and toughness on her part to follow through, but I’m proud of her that this is something she decided to start, and I know she’s going to finish.”
“I don’t know what anyone else thought,” said Hoey, “but going in I said that as long as she can kick, it’d be good, and she’s definitely proven that. She works just as hard as anyone else. She goes to practice every day, she kicks when we need it, she grabs us to kick after practice. She’s doing her role on the team, and she’s doing it really well.”
Ojemann kicked her first football five years ago when Concord-Carlisle’s turf fields were opened to the public. She beat several boys in a kicking competition after blasting one through the uprights from about 40 yards away.
Former Concord-Carlisle football coach Al Robichaud, the father of current coach Mike Robichaud, quickly asked the young girl in the soccer jersey if she had thought about trying out for the freshman football team the following fall.
At the time, Ojemann was a devoted soccer player and continued to play through last fall. However, she was not enjoying the sport as much as she thought she should, so she revisited the idea that was presented to her as a 12-year-old.
“She’s been great for us,” said Mike Robichaud. “We talked to her over the summer, and she was very, very determined to learn what she needed to learn and practice what she needed to practice. She’s done a really great job getting into a routine, and she’s been terrific.”
With the help of special teams coach Josh Reed, who likes to use video to help his new pupil refine her technique, Ojemann has become a dependable source of points at a position where high schoolers are often erratic.
Off the field, and in down moments at practice, Ojemann has felt more comfortable with being the lone girl on a team full of boys with every passing week. Though she uses a different locker room than her teammates, she feels as much a part of the Patriots as any other player.
“At first, I felt out of place,” Ojemann said, “but after I started doing summer workouts,’’ including sessions at a gym in Acton, “they treated me like anyone else, and I started to treat myself like part of the team. That was really the most important thing. I was probably the one who made it awkward at first, not the guys.”
Ranger Beguelin, one of Ojemann’s classmates, knows what it’s like to officially make a team a “mixed gender” squad.
The goalie for Concord-Carlisle’s varsity ice hockey team decided he would play field hockey this fall. When he heard from a friend, field hockey captain Melissa Hoey (Austin’s older sister), that the team needed a goalie, he was willing to help.
“He texted me two days before tryouts,” said coach Rob Viola. “He said that if he was going to take anyone’s spot, he wasn’t going to come out for the team. I think he was looking for a way to stay in shape and looking to help out his friends. He really is a good kid. That’s just his character.”
Like Ojemann, Beguelin is still learning his new position and his new sport. Wearing goalie pads on turf is much different than what he’s used to on the ice, but the 5-foot-10, 180-pound senior is adapting quickly, and the field hockey team had a record of 6-3-1.
Ojemann said she has not experienced any heckling from opposing teams or opposing fans. Beguelin, on the other hand, has experienced some backlash.
The Patriots field hockey team played in one preseason game in which an opposing coach forfeited because she had not been informed ahead of time that Beguelin would be participating. According to Beguelin, some referees have conveyed their displeasure that a boy was competing against girls.
“My coaches told me that some people are going to have problems with me because they feel like I’m intruding on their sport,” Beguelin said. “But I’ve always had such strong support from my coaches and teammates, I just choose not to focus on the bad.”
Beguelin takes the ribbing he gets from his friends and ice hockey teammates with a sense of humor.
“The hockey team, everyone in my classes, they all will say ‘You’re on the field hockey team?’ ’’ Beguelin said. “But the best comeback for that is to ask them, how many girls do they get to hang out with on a daily basis?”
Both Beguelin and Ojemann received strong support from their families.
“We have five kids in our family and Ranger is right smack in the middle,” said Beguelin’s mother, Sarah. “He gets the whole ‘taking it for the team’ thing. His whole life is making things work. His friends were looking for some help, and so he wanted to help.”
Ojemann’s mother, Paula, was proud to learn her daughter would be blazing new ground at Concord-Carlisle; she had been Reading Memorial High’s first female class president. Her father, Mike, is an avid football fan and proud to see his oldest daughter wearing a maroon and gold jersey over her shoulder pads.
“He was very excited,” Ojemann said with a laugh.
“I’m the oldest of his two daughters so he questioned the physical part of it, and getting hit, but he loves the sport, and he knew I wanted to do it so he put that aside for me.”
Ojemann expected to be recovered from her ankle injury in time to be back on the field at home against Boston Latin on Friday night. There was nowhere else she wanted to be.
“This has been a great experience for me,” she said. “The best part of it is what I get from my teammates. They’re amazing. They’re so passionate about the sport, and most of them aren’t even planning on playing in college. And the coaches are incredible, they inspire me to do my best. It’s exactly what I wanted, so I’m happy with it.”Phil Perry can be reached at paperry27@ gmail.com.