Ella's shining moment came in a rainy game against the eventual league champ. Ella tipped and intercepted a pass; after the turnover, she caught a touchdown pass that secured the victory.
The team's plight became a bit of a rallying point, her coach says.
"There was never blame on Ella," Orona says. "There was resentment against the league over not being able to continue in the playoffs. When you're winning, you just want to keep going."
Today, Ella's football career stands at a crossroads. The school has decided to form a girls' team for spring, but only two have signed up. Those close to the program fear there won't be enough players.
That would leave Ella at the mercy of the Foothill Sports League again. Sequoyah's first year was probationary, and the league must now vote on whether the team can come back. Ella's potential presence heightens the stakes.
You'd think we'd gone beyond this kind of stuff by now. In high school, girls wrestle against boys; they play on tackle teams. At the Super Bowl, a 9-year-old girl — a tackle football sensation from Utah — sat with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Still, 40 years after Title IX, double standards persist.
"Men still seem very uncomfortable with girls playing football," Ella's father notes.
The league says that there will be no changes.
"The league has decided to stay with the status quo, as we offer all genders the opportunity to play basketball, volleyball and flag football," said Jorge Avila, president of the league.
Best case, it's fear of a kid getting hurt. Worst case, it's a remnant of good-old-boy sexism.
Ella doesn't care.
All she wants to do is play a little football.