ST. JOHN | When a mother talks about her daughter in a loving way, it will cause the average person to need a hanky. If they have a soul anyway.
Rena Doan stood between the frost and raindrops on Friday night at The Burial Grounds. She spoke about the kindness of her little girl.
“She will always be my quiet, long-haired little girl who never hurt anyone and who was nice to all,” Mrs. Doan said.
No, her daughter isn't a cheerleader at Lake Central. Jillian Doan, a junior, is not on the pom-pom or dance teams. And she doesn't play drums in the pep band.
Jillian Doan had as much mud on her football uniform as Gelen Robinson. And just like the standout Indians linebacker, Jillian Doan is also a sectional champion.
Lake Central pounded Merrillville 31-0 to win the Class 6A Sectional 1 championship, a game where Doan was 4-for-4 in extra points and also kicked a 22-yard field goal.
The Indians snapped a 16-game losing streak to the Pirates with the victory, L.C.'s first sectional championship since 1999.
When the season started Lake Central went through kickers like Obamacare shuffled excuses. Then, a young girl showed up to try out for the open kicking spot.
“Honestly, I did it as a joke,” Doan said. “I got my five practices in before (the Michigan City game). I only kicked with a line once.”
Her homecoming dance was on the football field. Since the game against the Wolves, Doan has only missed one extra point and has kicked two game-winning field goals.
“The kicking part hasn't surprised me, I always thought I could do that,” Doan said. “It's handling the pressure. I've surprised myself with that. After this I know I can do anything.”
The Times has written numerous stories about female football players through the years. But almost all of them didn't play much, if at all. Doan is making an impact with her small frame and accurate leg.
L.C. coach Brett St. Germain had a smile on his face about this strange but wonderful story.
“She's done a phenomenal job,” said St. Germain.
Honestly, when was the last time you heard a football coach say that sentence?
Doan was interviewed by PBS this week in class. It's possible her story is breaking nationally. But she didn't have time to join a pizza party celebration with the rest of her team.
She had to leave for St. Louis for a College Exposure soccer tournament. Yes, Doan plays on Lake Central's girls soccer team.
But she has proven that she is a football player.
“She's the first female teammate I've ever had,” Robinson said. “They say she's the first female football player in Lake Central history. She's part of the team, just like everybody else. She's great. Everyone wants her to do well.”
When the little girl told her dad, Dave Doan, that she was trying out for the football team he said what I would have.
“Are you kidding me?” Dave asked. “As what?”
When he heard she was kicking it calmed him some. But he had to let her know that she could still get hit, tackled. She didn't know.
The Purdue-bound Robinson told Rena Doan that if anyone took a cheap shot at Jillian he would take them out. It hasn't happened yet. Good thinking.
Jillian was honest. She didn't know anything about the Xs and Os of football. But she said her teammates have helped her study for Football 101.
She saw the T-shirts that had the number 17 inside a red circle with a line through it. She knew the Merrillville game was big. What she didn't know was how big until the final horn sounded.
And a Woodstock slide festival began with her teammates.
“This is insane,” Doan said. “I've never experienced anything like this in my life.”
Well, young lady, you get to play for another week. And you have another year of football left. Coach was correct.
She's done a phenomenal job.