Trio Looking to Make Impact in Cordova Football
Kiran Pooni gets ready to catch the football during a workout at Lancers Stadium. The junior is one of two girls on the Cordova varsity football team, and three in the program. -- Photo by Mike Bush
AJ Williams goes up for the block in a drill in a practice at Lancers Stadium. Williams will be senior this upcoming school year. -- Photo by Mike Bush
On a warm afternoon earlier this month, the Cordova High School varsity and frosh/soph football teams descended onto the turf at Lancers Stadium.
After spending more than an hour pumping iron inside the school’s weight room, the players on both teams worked on drills in T-shirts and shorts participated in offensive drills that ranged from 7-on-7 to running plays. Among the players were three girls on both teams.
For the first time since Darren Nill became the Cordova varsity football coach in 2015, the Lancers have two girls on the varsity team and another on the frosh/soph team. Kiran Pooni and AJ Williams are vying for playing time on the varsity team and Yancy Alfaro on the frosh/soph team.
Pooni is already a proven student-athlete at Cordova. Last winter, the incoming junior started at midfielder on the Cordova varsity girls soccer team. She also played on the school’s junior varsity girls basketball team.
“Kiran came up to me during the (last) school year and said, ‘Coach, I’m really interested in playing football,’” said Nill of his conversation with Pooni. “She said she wants to do it. I asked around campus, and have been told she’s one of the best female athletes on campus. I felt pretty sure she knew what she was doing. She can handle herself.”
Pooni added, “I’ve always had an interest in it. I wanted to show people that just because you’re a girl don’t mean you can’t do things that guys can do.”
Williams and Alfaro came out when the Lancers started their practices earlier this month.
“I saw AJ the first week of practice,” said Nill of Williams, who will be a senior when the 2017-18 school year starts in early August. “She showed up and said she wanted to play.”
Williams, who will be a senior when the 2017-18 school year starts in early August, added, “He’s helped me step-by-step… he’s been very helpful.”
Pooni and Williams, along with Alfaro, worked out at wide receiver and defensive back in practices. Those are the spots that the trio would be listed when the season starts toward the end of August.
The male football players on both teams have embraced all three players, Nill notes. The girls are treated the same way as the boys.
“We wouldn’t have it any other way,” Nill said.
Williams added, “They’ve treated me like one of the team. They don’t even care that I’m a female.”
When practices first started earlier this month, Nill felt that the girls felt intimated. But they stood their grounds in practices and weight room.
“AJ, what I like about her, is her grit,” said Nill of Williams. “She came out and had some problems; running, health. I don’t think she was probably hydrated when she first came out. And I thought for sure after that first practice we’d never see her again. And she kept coming back out, and I applaud her for that.”
Williams added, “Football has been very good.”
Pooni admitted that she had limited confidence when practices first started. But as each days and time in the weight room and football field passes, she’s continued to build her self-esteem to a higher level.
In fact, the coaches Pooni has been working on punting and kicking for the Lancers. After all, she did a lot of kicking on the girls soccer team last winter.
“It’s much more intense,” said Pooni of football. “You have to have a lot more focus.”
Pooni and Williams, along with Alfaro, and Cordova open the season on Friday, Aug. 25th against Rio Americano at Del Campo’s field.