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Girl running backs putting in work at Ocean View, Laguna Beach

Ocean View's Isis Salazar is a sophomore running back for the football team.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

Isis Salazar was not born with a Y chromosome.

But when it comes to playing football, the Ocean View High School sophomore’s attitude was simply, “Why not?”

Salazar, a talented striker for the Seahawks girls’ soccer team, scored 26 goals as a freshman. A San Francisco 49ers fan, she joined the football team this fall as a kicker but told first-year coach Jimmy Welker that she also wanted to try other positions.

“He asked me if I wanted to hold the ball or get the ball thrown to me,” Salazar said. “I said, ‘I’ll hold the ball.’”

She did much more than just hold the ball in last Friday’s 36-16 nonleague win over visiting Temecula Prep. Salazar scored a 4-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter, even breaking a tackle in the backfield in the process, in helping Ocean View earn the win.

Isis Salazar takes a hand off during Ocean View's football practice on Wednesday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

She is believed to be just the second female player in Orange County history to score a touchdown, joining Samantha Ho of Tesoro in 2015. Only a handful of girls have scored touchdowns in a varsity game statewide.

“Obviously, it is a big thing,” Salazar said. “You don’t normally hear about girls scoring touchdowns. At first, I was just trying to process it. I was kind of speechless … I hope that I’m an inspiration.”

Another player in the Pac-4 League, Laguna Beach junior Bella Rasmussen, is also a female running back. She has played in three games this season for the Breakers and is searching for her first touchdown herself.

Welker said that Salazar, who carries a 3.8 grade-point average, definitely is an inspiration. As a four-sport athlete at Sherman Oaks Notre Dame before walking on to the LSU football team, he understands the importance of versatility.

Salazar has played running back and cornerback on the Seahawks’ stunt team this season, and she’s also been called on at times for onside kicks.

“I just put her in the game to get her a rep, not knowing it would go like this,” Welker said. “But it really has become something special. I sent an email to all the staff, and I had no less than 30 responses. Isis is one of the most-liked people on campus by staff and students.”

Ocean View senior tight end and defensive end Luke Crabtree, a team captain, said that Salazar deserved the touchdown. She is out at practice every day, and also participates in the team’s weight training.

Basically, she is just part of the team.

“It’s great to know that girls can come out here and play football and be good at it,” Crabtree said. “You can do whatever you want, be good at it if you set your mind to it.”

Laguna Beach football player Bella Rasmussen at practice on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Rasmussen is a more experienced football player for Laguna Beach, as she’s been playing the sport since she was 7 years old. In her first year on varsity, she has 14 carries for 45 yards this season.

She started out playing youth football with the Irvine Chargers but kept with it after the family moved to Laguna Beach.

“I enjoy playing football,” Rasmussen said. “I don’t really differentiate myself as a girl. I just think of myself as one of the players who wants to see our team succeed and wants to contribute to the win. Honestly, I never felt like any of [my teammates] have ever seen me as anything different than just one of the players. I think a lot of them act like big brothers to me at this point. I’m great friends with all of them.”

Rasmussen said scoring a touchdown herself would be “insane.”

“Just like Ocean View, a girl had never scored a touchdown there before [Salazar], that’s how it is at Laguna,” she said. “At this point, that’s the ultimate goal, to have that accomplishment and hopefully inspire little girls to want to do that as well.”

Laguna Beach football player Bella Rasmussen at practice on Tuesday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Both Ocean View and Laguna Beach open Pac-4 League play Friday night, with the Seahawks hosting Godinez and the Breakers playing at Westminster. The teams face each other Oct. 22, at Laguna Beach.

Salazar, who wears No. 14 in both football and soccer, is looking forward to her sophomore season on the pitch. Her senior sister Brigget is a midfielder on the girls’ soccer team.

As it turns out, she’s quite enjoying herself on the gridiron, too. She gave thanks to her parents, Enrique and Norma, as well as her teammates and coaches for the opportunity.

“My mom always says, ‘If you see yourself there or you dream it, it can come true,’” Isis Salazar said. “Me getting a touchdown and being a girl on a football team is just amazing. I feel like I have accomplished a goal that I’ve had.”

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