Jackson Bridges making history for Pineville football as its first female kicker
Splitting her time between volleyball and soccer, Jackson Bridges and Pineville coach Sarah Stevens lobbied each year for her to join the football team.
When Bryant Bell was named the Rebels’ coach in January, they figured to give it another try on Bell’s second day at the job.
“My soccer coach is the reason I got on this team,” Bridges said. “She helped and pushed me and talked to coaches every single year of high school. She said, ‘She needs to be on this team. She can kick.’ ”
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When Bell first met Bridges and heard her inquiry of playing football, he was skeptical.
“I honestly thought it was some publicity stunt,” Bell said. “I didn’t think she’d actually want to play football once she saw the working out, conditioning and requirements that we have for all players, but she did everything that we asked. She earned her spot on the team for sure.”
Bridges became the first girl in program history to score in a game when she went 1-for-2 on extra points in a 21-13 loss at Sulphur on Sept. 3. A week later, she made all four of her extra point attempts in a 28-7 home win against Menard.
Bridges has shown the ability to kick consistently from 32-40 yards in practice and through three games is 5-for-6 on extra-point attempts. Her only field goal attempt - a 28-yarder against Tioga - was blocked.
“It’s been a really great experience,” Bridges said. “I’ve met a lot of great new people and made a lot of new friends. It’s definitely been hard sometimes keeping up with everyone, but they’re all very supportive and have helped me out.”
She dresses in the girls bathroom and relaxes in the coaches office during team rest periods before and after practices and games. For road games, Bridges dresses in a nearby girls bathroom.
“She’s obviously courageous,” Bell said. “She has the courage to come out to play a sport that not many females do. She’s cool, calm and collected. She’s definitely not only an inspiration to me and our team, but to other people, especially little girls out there.”
Nothing came easy for Bridges while she was trying to make the team.
“I didn’t know what he was going to think or say,” Bridges said. “I was very, very nervous and I knew that he wasn’t going to take me seriously until he saw what I can do and that I can play and keep up with everybody.”
There were times where she wanted to give up, but her biggest inspiration came from junior tight end Jackson Sabbides, who is also her boyfriend.
“We were going out for two months and she said, ‘Hey, I want to play football,’ ” Sabbides said. “At first, I laughed and said, ‘You serious?’, but I support her 100%. I didn’t want her to really get hurt, but I encouraged her. I’m always going to encourage her.”
After each made kick, Bridges and Sabbides celebrate with a shoulder bump.
“He’s been very supportive and always been there for me,” Bridges said. “During summer when we had tryouts and boot camp and I was down on myself, he was saying, ‘Come on, you can do this. Keep going, you’ve got a little more’. In the weight room, he’s like, ‘Do one more. Keep going.' He’s always pushing me to do better.”
Bridges is part of an exclusive list of a select few Louisiana girls kickers to score in a game in the last five years, joining North DeSoto’s Aubrey Kuntz, Acadiana’s Kelsey Latiolais and West Ouachita’s Ashlee Sebren.
“I was very excited, especially the first game against Sulphur,” Bridges said. “I was like, ‘I did that. I just scored.’ I was screaming and I was so excited. Once I got used to it, I know each goal is not guaranteed, so I’m always excited whenever I get one. But I can’t freak out right there. I have to get off (the field) and get ready for the next play.”
Just in case Bridges need to hits a game-winner for the Rebels, she will be looking for Sabbides to celebrate with.
“I’m going to be screaming and looking everywhere for Jackson,” Bridges said. “I know he’s going to hype me up and I’m going to be hyped up. Everyone’s going to be screaming. It’s just a really great environment to be in.”