Gorman: She plays football, just for kicks
Audra Lewis twirled her baton while marching down Monongahela Avenue, one of the majorettes leading South Allegheny's homecoming parade to Glassport Memorial Stadium.
After performing in the pregame show with the marching band, Lewis hurried across the grass field and disappeared into the locker room.
When she emerged 10 minutes later, Lewis was in a football helmet, dressed in full equipment and wearing a No. 3 jersey.
“I just put my football uniform right over top of my majorette uniform,” Lewis said. “At first it wasn't comfortable, but I'm used to it now.”
The South Allegheny junior is a rarity in Western Pennsylvania prep football — not because she is a kicker for the football team or a member of the marching band but because she performs for both on the same night.
“First and foremost, she's a tremendous athlete. It's not like she's a novelty,” said South Allegheny coach Pat Monroe, who is coaching a girl for the first time in his career.
“I can definitely differentiate between my two kickers. When I call her over, I don't even have to look at the number. The eye glitter gets your attention very quickly.”
Lewis laughs at this, knowing there is hardly enough time for her wardrobe changes during the game, let alone to worry about her makeup.
“I'm just worried about if he puts me on the field and I make the kick or not,” she said.
About two minutes before halftime of Friday night's game against McGuffey, Lewis started shedding her football uniform on the home sideline. She pulled off her jersey to reveal a sparkling sequined top, then rolled her nylons back down and grabbed her baton.
“I actually enjoy the rush,” Lewis said. “Sometimes I miss the feeling that I'm always doing something. On the sidelines, it can be very boring. Once I step on the field for majorettes, I relax because I enjoy it so much. I just calm down and perform.”
Juggling activities is nothing new for Lewis, a high-honors student who serves as student council president, is an all-section soccer player and pulls double duty at football games.
Lewis never intended to play football but is doing so amid South Allegheny's resurgent season. The Gladiators are off to a 5-1 start, their best since 1986, after the 41-14 victory over McGuffey.
When Dave Lewis teased his daughter that she was splitting the goalposts more often than she was finding the back of the net in soccer, she took it personally.
“I think he was challenging me,” she said. “I would hit it high sometimes, so he would be like, ‘Field goal! It's good.' He was helping and challenging me at the same time.”
Lewis approached Monroe in Week 2 about joining the football team and passed the tryout with flying colors.
“I think he was shocked that I could kick as good as I did because I'm a girl,” Lewis said.
The 5-foot-4 Lewis is the backup to senior Chris Joseph, but she got her first opportunity two weeks ago and converted a point-after try against South Park. She missed her lone attempt against Burgettstown.
“It was an experience of a lifetime,” Lewis said. “I was so excited. When I did my tryout, it was nothing. In a game, it's so much different, the pressure of all the fans and all of the big linemen coming at me. I'm a girl, so they're much bigger than I am. That's a lot of pressure.”
Lewis has proven as adept at handling pressure as she is at managing her time. She scored a goal in a soccer game Monday and bounced among soccer, football and band practices all week while helping to plan the homecoming festivities.
“I'm very busy, but I manage my time with soccer and football and majorettes,” Lewis said. “After school, I go straight to soccer and then to football, so I don't get home until 6. Then I eat dinner, do my homework, and by the time that is done, I go straight to bed.”
Monroe said the South Allegheny players have welcomed Lewis.
“First of all, they see her performance, and that gave her immediate credibility,” he said. “Gender is irrelevant when it comes to athletics, so the kids respect her.”
That doesn't stop her teammates from teasing Lewis that she can't see over taller players on the sideline. Or when she takes off her earrings, hair piece and sheer top.
“Most of the time, the football players tease me a lot because I have to wear glitter for majorettes,” Lewis said. “If we're away, the majorettes help me put in my hair piece. They fix my shirt or put on my lipstick.
“It's a sight.”
The best sight came in the fourth quarter Friday after Da'Vonte Johnson scored on a 5-yard run with 8:58 left.
Monroe sent Lewis into the game to handle the extra point. She trotted onto the field, set down her kicking tee and prepared herself. If she was nervous, it didn't show. Lewis split the uprights, sending the homecoming crowd into a frenzy.
It's not a novelty, but Audra Lewis put on quite a show.
Kevin Gorman is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7812.