By Mia Fowler
Isis Salazar, a sophomore running back who also plays varsity soccer at Ocean View High School, made OVHS history when she scored a touchdown this season. It was a moment she had envisioned for herself when she watched quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo throw a touchdown for the San Francisco 49ers.
That’s when “I saw myself scoring a touchdown,” she said. A year later her dream came true.
Breaking gender norms was a natural outcome of Isis’ love of sports, feelings that her family fostered in her from the time she was young. In a sport that has traditionally been a reserve of hypermasculinity, Isis’ experience was quite different. The boys on her team treated her like a “little sister” – they protected her, they cheered her on, they celebrated her victory.
“It’s been good for everybody – myself, the coaches, the players, for her,” head coach Jimmy Welker said.
From Huntington Beach, Salazar comes from a line of athletes in her family including both of her parents and her siblings. Seven years ago, she found that her passion lay in soccer and she’s been playing ever since.
She currently plays for Slammers FC and her high school team, where she is a striker for both. But this fall, despite being a year-round soccer player, Salazar also spent time on the gridiron.
Salazar combined her love of kicking with her love of football and tried out to be the kicker for the varsity football team. Curiosity led her to try wide receiver during summer camp for a couple of days, and that’s when Welker asked her if she’d rather run the ball or have it thrown to her.
“I want to run with the ball,” said Salazar.
And thus, the running back was born. But not without apprehension.
“At first everybody was a little new to the idea of a girl playing football, especially with the tackling drills and all the hitting,” Salazar said.
Though the boys on the team tackled, pushed and shoved her around in drills just as they would any other player, what scared her most at first wasn’t the prospect of being injured by a hard-hitting play. In fact, in her first time being tackled, she described it as feeling “so good, like an adrenaline rush.”
What most scared her was what her teammates would think of a girl playing football.
“I had some doubts in my mind because I had the fear of rejection.” But between the coaching staff and the players, Salazar felt instantly welcomed and her doubts subsided.
“Don’t let them intimidate you,” Welker said to Salazar. “Walk in there. Hit them. They’re gonna hit you. You’re a football player. I don’t see one way or the other,” he said. “If you’re willing to give me what you have to play for me, I’ll give you that opportunity and I’ll give you my very best as a coach,” Welker said.
In the fourth quarter of the Temecula Prep game Salazar proved she was the football player Welker believed her to be when she ran the ball into the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown, contributing to Ocean View’s 36-16 victory..
“The reason she scored is because she did her job on that play…all the things that we coach all of our running backs to do. She did it and executed it correctly on that play and that’s why she scored,” Welker said.
Welker also endorsed Salazar’s overall ability, noting that she has natural speed and
intelligence. “She’s owned her job the entire year,” Welker said. “She’s consistently gotten better week in and week out.”
Salazar joins Samantha Ho of Tesoro High School in the ranks of this accomplishment, becoming just the second female in Orange County to score a touchdown in a varsity football game. “It was really exciting…I didn’t fully process it until I kicked off, and I was like ‘wow I really scored a touchdown and I’m kicking off on my own touchdown,’” Salazar said.
Her overall goal of the season was simply to get out of her comfort zone, something she feels she exceeded by scoring that touchdown. “Whatever I put my mind to, I can do,” Salazar said of her thoughts on the season overall.
Salazar plans to play out her two remaining years of football and soccer for Ocean View and then pursue a collegiate soccer career. She is grateful for her football experience, as she believes it will make her stronger and more fit to pursue college soccer, but it also helped her to “grow in life.”
To our readers: “Prep Sport Spotlight” will take some time off for the holidays and return on Jan. 4, 2022.
Categories: High school sports