Erin Dimeglio knows what it’s like to take a hard foul.
Last season on the basketball court, she took an elbow to her mouth, which left her lips bloodied and swollen.
“I’m not afraid of contact,” Dimeglio, a 17-year old senior at South Plantation, said Tuesday.
Truth is, Dimeglio can’t wait to get hit again. And now that she has the permission of her parents and Paladins football coach Doug Gatewood, Dimeglio could find out as early as Thursday — the first day high school teams across the state are allowed to wear full pads — what it’s like to get tackled on the gridiron.
“I actually want to be hit — just to see how it feels,” said Dimeglio, who is expected to be the Paladins’ third-string quarterback. “I’m not scared. I mean, I might be scared afterward. But I’m not scared right now.”
At 5-5, 150 pounds and with dirty brown hair, which hangs down her back in a ponytail, Dimeglio appears a bit out of place among her 70-or-so varsity teammates. Some of them — like star running back Alex Collins, a 5-11, 210-pound University of Miami commitment — have full beards.
But nobody wearing the Paladins’ purple and white snickers raises their eyebrows at Dimeglio anymore. After going through spring football in May and then a series of 7-on-7 camps this summer, the starting point guard on the girls’ basketball team (she averaged 15 points and 12 assists as a junior) has earned the respect of her teammates, who want to see her complete her lifelong dream: “to throw a touchdown pass in a real game.”
Gatewood insists none of this is a joke. He has had girls try out before and said if Dimeglio wasn’t such a good passer on the girls’ flag football team, which he also coaches, he wouldn’t have asked her to hone her skills with the boys this offseason. The fact she has performed so well and could open the eyes of college scouts — she only has Division III offers for basketball — is why he’s on board with letting her play.
“People don’t believe it when they see her at first,” said Paladins starting quarterback John Franklin III, who has 14 scholarship offers — FIU, Bowling Green and Air Force among them. “Most girls go to teams and can’t do anything. But she can actually play, could probably start for a few teams. She can throw slants, drags, any of that stuff. She threw about a 30-yard fly route to me for a touchdown up in Tampa — five TDs in all.”
The Paladins, coming off a 7-4 season and their first playoff appearance since 2007, should have one of the best teams in Broward County.
Gatewood, who didn’t allow Dimeglio to get hit during spring football, said his goal is to get her into games that have already been decided or are out of reach. He also plans to play Dimeglio only in shotgun formations.
That should keep her father, Tom Dimeglio, and her mother Kathleen happy. Both were against their daughter getting hit, but have eased up a little according to Erin because of how well she has performed and because Gatewood has promised to do his best to protect her.
“My [older] sister [Amy] thinks I’m crazy,” said Dimeglio, who changes into her football uniform and puts on her pads in an empty girls locker room while the rest of her teammates change on the other side of the school. “But I just think this is so much fun. I’ve played flag football since the fourth grade. Scoring on boys is really fun, just to see their reactions, see the coaches get mad. I’ll be nervous, yeah. But this is like any other game. You just have to get in the zone and play.”
Pompano Beach Blanche Ely will bolster its bid for a repeat FHSAA Class 7A state boys’ basketball title with the imminent transfer of Miramar’s Lance Tejada, a University of Miami target and the No. 2 point guard prospect in the 2014 class by SourceHoops.com.
Tejada’s exit from Miramar follows that of Zachary Johnson, a No. 5-ranked prospect who transferred to reigning Class 6A state champion Miami Norland.