By Scott Halasz
BEAVERCREEK — It started with a supposedly tongue-in-cheek comment Marcella Cash made to her mom, Nina.
“I was like yeah, I want to play football,” Cash said. “We kind of talked about it as a joke at the beginning. I don’t know if she took me seriously or not.”
It was definitely no laughing matter to mom.
“To me, every time that she says that she wants to do something, I never take it as a joke with her,” Nina Cash said. “When it comes to sports, that girl just wants to do everything.”
And barely 14, Cash is accomplishing a lot at a young age.
A freshman on the varsity girls soccer team at Beavercreek High School, Cash is also the starting kicker for the 2-0 football team, which visits county rival Fairborn Friday. Cash is one of 18 girls in her age group invited to the Olympic Development Program National Training Camp. And she is an age and weight class world record holder in powerlifting.
It’s not a rarity at Beavercreek for a freshman to make the varsity soccer team. Coach Steve Popp said he always seems to have a couple. But it is something out of the ordinary for a girl to be the starting kicker for the Beavers. It’s a first for Coach Nic Black, who is in his third year. Some long-time Beavercreek residents aren’t sure there has ever been a girl win the varsity job.
“I just wanted to try something different that’s going to be something fun to be able to tell everyone,” Marcella Cash said.
Her first try wasn’t that great.
“(The kick) was so bad,” Cash said, recalling she was wearing tennis shoes.
But thanks to a mentor she found by working with former NFL player Tramain Hall and the Enhance U Sports Performance Academy, Cash has drastically improved.
“After that first session, he said ‘This girl is promising,’ ” Nina Cash said.
So Marcella Cash spent the bulk of her summer working hard on both sports.
She conditioned with the soccer team in the morning and spent the afternoon with the football team. She also did one-on-one work with the kicking coach and for soccer, and she did football training at the high school as well.
Neither coach has had a problem with the emerging two-sport star.
“In the summer we had all our summer tournaments, we had our preseason matches, she hasn’t missed anything,” Popp said. “She’s done a good job of being able to work through it. She’s fully committed to be the best soccer player she can be for us and she’s committed to being the best football player she can be. There hasn’t been anything that’s been an issue. If we have athletes that can continue to play multiple sports, we encourage that.”
Because of how football practices operate, special teams work is usually done at the beginning of a session and not every day, making it easy for Cash when there is a soccer game.
“We just work around it,” Black said. “We’ve always had soccer players since I’ve been here.”
In Beavercreek’s 37-20 season-opening win over county rival Xenia, Cash was, um, money. She nailed all five extra points and executed a couple perfectly placed onside kicks. She was the special teams player of the week for the game, dubbed the Backyard Battle.
“I’m the only person who can (do that kick),” Cash said. “It’s also fun watching them dogpile in front of me.”
Her all-around ability has impressed Black.
“She’s been great,” he said. “Her ball placement on kickoffs has been awesome. She’s our best option right now, that’s for sure.
Cash has quickly become part of the team, just like every other player on the BHS roster, which also includes senior Hannah Eberly, who also competed for the kicking job.
“Everyone there is really accepting of me,” Cash said. “They’re always cheering me on.”
That was evident when the personable Cash ran onto the field to attempt her first extra point.
“It was so exhilarating,” she said. “Everybody was chanting my name.”
And after she nailed the kick — Cash said she wasn’t the least bit nervous, but told herself she better not miss — one of her teammates picked her up from behind and hugged her.
“They all treat me like I’m their little sister,” Cash said.
But being the ultra-competitive athlete she is, Cash doesn’t want to be treated like anyone’s sister on the field. In fact, against Xenia she tried to tackle Meechi Harris as he was scurrying for an 83-yard touchdown on a kickoff return.
“I was terrified,” she said as the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder ran down the sideline toward her. “The next thing that I know, his hand is on my mask and I’m on the ground and I was terrified.”
It’s safe to say Popp wasn’t overly joyed when he saw that on television the next day.
“Obviously if you think about it, we don’t want to lose any of them for our rotation,” he said. “That’s 25 percent of our attack with our strikers. (But) from an athletic side, we understand that a player can get hurt at a training.”
While it’s likely Cash won’t be attempting too many of those tackles, she won’t be opposed to a fake field goal.
“I really want to run the ball into the end zone,” she said.
Knowing her daughter quite well, Nina Cash doesn’t doubt it will happen.
“When she wants to do something, she will go full power with that,” she said.
Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.