Eagle tough: Sophomore plays soccer, football in single season

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Eagles sophomore Skylar Fleischman takes a knee at the edge of the huddle during halftime of the Oct. 10, 2016 junior varsity game between Brown County and Owen Valley. | File photo

Brown County has a lot of multisport athletes, but not many who play two in the same season, nor on a team of mostly the opposite sex.

Sophomore Skylar Fleischman is believed to be the first female athlete to ever score for Eagles football.

That field goal against Edgewood on Sept. 30 was a big moment for Skylar and for her junior varsity team.

Her cousin and teammate, sophomore Evan Fleischman, had worried a little watching Skylar and her holder, freshman Jordan Oswald, try to get their timing down before the game.

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“Warming up didn’t look good,” he said. “But that kick was perfect.”

“All the guys slapped me on the pads,” Skylar said.

Growing up surrounded by male cousins and a brother, Gabe, who played football, the camaraderie of a football team is familiar to Skylar.

From as early as she can remember, she was in on the family’s backyard football games.

She said that probably is part of what made her tough — though she doesn’t see that toughness as necessarily a masculine trait.

“I think girls can be just as tough as guys,” she said.

In the halls or in the huddle, Skylar said she never feels she isn’t accepted by the team.

Yet, there has been some resistance because she is a girl, said cousin and teammate, freshman Brandon Fleischman.

“I got called a few names,” Skylar admitted.

“I know a couple that weren’t too happy to hear that I was on the team,” she said. “There were some times I just didn’t feel like they really wanted me there. But as the season went on, they accepted me more.”

She still gets some razzing from her football teammates for being a soccer player, “because I guess football is better than soccer,” Skylar said.

In soccer, Skylar spent last season stopping goals instead of kicking them, as the girls team’s primary goalie.

Yet, the two sports have complimented each other. She said she has learned from football how to get under the ball more, allowing her to get goal kicks higher.

Last summer, Skylar focused on improving her goal-stopping skills and she was among the young players soccer head coach David Phelps said stepped up to fill the gap left by departing seniors.

She plans to spend this next summer studying how to become a better kicker to see if she can make similar strides in football.

Given the opportunity, she said she’d like to try running the ball.

Junior varsity football coach Jay Myers said the coaches are hesitant to put the 120-pound, 5-foot, 2-inch Skylar in a position where she might get clobbered by a 400-pound lineman.

She does not share their concern.

“I am going to keep trying until my senior year, because I think that would be awesome if I could run it just once,” she said.

She even has a tackle in the books, she said. “It was more like a little stop before someone could push him down, but I’m going to count it as a tackle,” she said.

Aside from playing soccer, football, and this season, basketball, Skylar is also a member of student council, Interact Club and Youth Leadership 2.0.

She helped start a dance marathon to benefit Riley Hospital for Children — a cause that one of her two big sisters, Harlea Standifer, has been involved in in college.

“She’s a natural leader,” said her father, Steve Fleischman. “She wouldn’t tell you that, but she is.”

Skylar also is a member of the Gay-Straight Alliance, participates in Big Brothers Big Sisters and teaches Sunday School.

“I’m pretty good at juggling a lot of things,” she said.

“A lot of kids can’t do that — adults can’t do that,” said her mother, Lynlea Fleischman.

Skylar cites her ability to “make it work” as one reason she is confident she can continue to play soccer and football, even if she were to eventually make the varsity football team. Both teams play during the fall season.

Noting the number of times she has been cleated as a goalie, or the ankle surgery she had to get after ripping some tendons and ligaments while playing basketball, Fleischman has more than a few examples of her ability to take a beating and keep going.

“She played on an injured ankle for a while,” Steve Fleischman said.

“Do I worry about her getting smashed? Yes,” her mother said. “But she’s tough. I mean, she is tough. Soccer, she gets knocked down, she gets right back up.”

“Honestly, she made a commitment to the team, and so, when she does that, it’s her responsibility to go out there and give it her all,” her father said.

“And if that means that she’s got to try to make a tackle or something like that to save it, then so be it.”

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.