Philibin knocks down barriers and extra points
By Charles Grove
While the Cardinal Mooney Cardinals rolled to a blowout of Akron North, new placekicker Lizzie Philibin stole the show.
Splitting time with a member of the boys soccer team, Paul Graziano, Philibin — the first female football player in school history — converted two out of three point-after attempts in Mooney’s 46-0 win.
“It was great,” Philibin said after the win. “At first it was a little nerve-wracking but after the first one I felt a lot better.”
Mooney outgained the Vikings 317 to 37 and held North to -16 yards rushing. Antonio Page threw for two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals.
The standout on the girls soccer team has been with the football team for two weeks now and shared her debut with Graziano, who hit two of his four PAT attempts. Philibin has accepted a full scholarship from the University of Michigan and will be a Wolverine soccer player next fall.
“Through camp and in the offseason we identified that we were looking for kickers to fill a void and some of the folks were interested in kicking and then they weren’t,” Mooney head coach P.J. Fecko said. “We got to the first game and struggled [with conversions] but then Paul and Lizzie both wanted to come out and give it a shot. They’re both here and they’ve both done an outstanding job.”
Philibin didn’t know what to make of the offer when defensive coordinator Chris Amill approached her and invited her to try out.
“Coach Chris just came up to me in my service class and said, ‘Do you want to be the kicker?’ And I was like, ‘Are you joking? Can you not find anyone else?’ He said to come out after school and just try and if you can’t do it that’s fine, but just see if you can make it though the posts.
“So I went after school and I made it a few times and then I backed up and made it a few more times.”
Fecko said Philibin is a competitor just like everyone else on the team and that’s part of what makes her a strong kicker.
“She’s a great athlete with a lot of talent,” Fecko said. “To go play at the University of Michigan she’s a pretty darn good athlete and competitor. Her athletic skills and her competitive nature will take over and I think she’ll do a good job for us.”
There were a few nerves for Philibin before the game. The shoulder pads were put on backwards on the sideline and the first two practice kicks missed the mark, but afterward, with the exception of the blocked PAT in the third quarter, she was money.
“[My nerves] were good for the beginning of the day but a few hours before kickoff they were like, ‘Oh my goodness this is really happening,’” she said.
Those nerves culminated when she ran out on the field to take the third PAT of the night after Graziano went one for two on the first two PATs. But they totally subsided once she nailed the kick and the crowd roared much louder than it did for the touchdown.
“I was really nervous but once it went through I felt relieved and it felt good,” Philibin said. “I think the first one set the tone because if you make the first one then you’re more confident when you go into the second and third one.”
After converting the second of her three kicks, Philibin was in her competitive zone.
“I just felt like, ‘I want to take another one soon,’” she said.
As far as the boys are concerned, she’s just another member of the team.
“Obviously there’s a lot of buzz because she’s a female but I think our team doesn’t really notice the difference,” Fecko said.