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Tough enough

If football is a boy’s sport, no one told the girls at Forest Glen Middle School.

Nina Nichols and twins Jamee and Alexis Albright all share the same passion for running fast and hitting hard, which they’re putting to good use on their school’s football team this year.

“They’re fast. They’re tough. They’re used to getting hit hard, and they hit back even harder,” said coach Jon Stewart, who also has served as an assistant coach at Lakeland High School.

The Albright sisters now play cornerback and running back, and Nina plays defensive end for the team.

The Albright sisters also played field hockey, Nina plays basketball and all three played soccer. Stewart was the girls’ soccer coach before they joined the football team — an idea that was all his.

At the last soccer game of the season, he turned to a bench of his football players and asked them which girls would make good football players.

“The team handpicked them,” he said. “They’re really just great athletes. We didn’t have a great season last year, and two of the girls played on the field hockey team, which didn’t lose a game last season. They bring a winning mentality to the team.”

Stewart said the girls are fitting in well among the male players and match them in speed, force, skill and endurance.

The boys on the team have taken it all in stride, as well, he said.

“It wasn’t a shock to them at all,” Stewart said. “They even voted two of the girls as two of our five captains.”

As for the girls, they all have bruises but say they’re having a great time.

“I like the fact we get to hit hard,” Jamee said. “We don’t get to hit like that in any of our other sports.”

While they admit they were a little afraid they could get hurt playing with the boys, they soon realized those fears were unfounded.

“We’re told we can hit harder than a lot of the boys out there,” Jamee said. “At our first game, some of the boys on the other team talked a lot of trash when they found out we were girls. We just hit them like we do. They went flying and shut up about it.”

“It’s a lot of fun to take them down and watch them limp away,” Nina said.

The girls are doing so well on the team, Stewart said, that Jamee will be his starting cornerback at Friday’s game, and both of the other girls will see a lot of field time.

“Sure, we were worried about the girls getting hurt,” said Jennifer Stewart, the twins’ mother. “At first we thought it was a joke, but when it came down to it, their coach was serious. But the girls are athletic, and they wanted to do it. No matter how badly they get hurt on the field, they smile more coming off of it than they do for any other sport.”