Behind the goal posts, shagging footballs blasted through the uprights during warm-ups, Sierra’s Marissa LaQuaglia makes no illusions about her role on Friday nights.
She’s a kicker with limited range – and she’ll tell you as much.
The senior splits the kicking duties with sophomore Marcos Castillo, who handles most of the deep drives – kickoffs and field goals.
That doesn’t mean LaQuaglia doesn’t play a very important role on a Sierra High team chasing its place in history.
The program, though responsible for several next-level talents and two Valley Oak League titles, has never won a Sac-Joaquin Section championship.
That could all change this fall. The Timberwolves (10-1) emerged from the VOL scrum with a share of its trophy, and by virtue of a tiebreaker with co-champ Oakdale, Division III’s No. 2 seed.
Sierra dusted No. 15 Rosemont in a show of offensive prowess in its playoff opener last week, 69-37. Now come highly touted running back Marcel Brown and No. 10 Rio Linda (9-2), who proved their up to task with a 62-point performance of their own.
“We’ve had a good ride,” LaQuaglia said. “We lost a game, but we dusted ourselves off and kept going. I don’t want the ride to end. I want to keep it going.”
In a game of explosive offenses, LaQuaglia might be the difference maker.
The 17-year-old senior has become a point-after specialist, no small feat when you consider playoff teams have avoided the chip shot from the 10-yard line at all costs.
Rosemont attempted only one extra point on its six touchdowns and that kick came with 38.7 seconds left in the game.
Sierra coach Jeff Harbison hasn’t shied away from LaQuaglia, an all-Valley Oak League selection in girls soccer last spring.
She is the first female athlete to play varsity football in school history, and this year she was joined by Hallie Trzcinski, a player on the freshman team.
“Playing with guys is different, but they took me in just like any other guy so that was nice,” said LaQuaglia, who began playing football as a sophomore. “I don’t like to have special attention. They think of me like one of the guys. I like that.”
Her foot has been her leg-up.
On Friday, amid a season-high 10 touchdowns, many of them highlight reel catches by Hunter Johnson or slippery runs by Mark Paule Jr., LaQuaglia’s footprint could be found all over the box score.
She has quietly and efficiently become one of the Timberwolves’ most consistent scorers.
The right-footed soccer star has converted 67 of 73 point-after attempts, an average of 6 points per game. To put that in clear football terms, her kicks are worth a touchdown on the final scoreboard.
“It starts with Joseph (Valenzuela) snapping to Devin (Nunez), and Devin throwing to Hunter or handing off to Mark. It’s because of them that I get to kick,” she said. “I’m thankful for them for giving me the chance to contribute those points.
“If they didn’t score, I wouldn’t be able to play. It’s all a team effort. I really like that about this team.”
In her eyes, she shares the field with 49 big brothers. And that feeling of family has manifested itself on the field a number of times this season.
During a Week 2 victory at Chavez, LaQuaglia was tackled by a Titan player during a kickoff. Her teammates rallied to her side, picking her up off the turf.
“Oh, we’ll get him,” they told her.
“That made me feel like they cared for me and would protect me,” she added, “that they’d tackle him 10 times harder than he tackled me.”
At one point this season, LaQuaglia, whose range is about 30 yards, was tied for the state lead in point-after conversions, according to MaxPreps. Entering last week’s game, she was tied for 11th in the state with two others.
Closer to home, LaQuaglia was fourth in the Sac-Joaquin Section, trailing only Folsom’s Troy Calderara, Vista del Lago’s Matt Krieg and Central Catholic’s Bryce Wade.
Manteca’s Marcus Montano, like LaQuaglia a soccer star turned football specialist, is ninth in the section with 45 conversions on 48 attempts.
Her role on the football field is dramatically different than her role on the pitch.
LaQuaglia was named to the all-VOL second team last spring as a defender with the girls soccer program. She finished the season with one goal and two assists, while being tasked to mark the opposing team’s best attackers.
She wasn’t looked upon to score, but to keep points off the board. Anything, she says, to help the team, whichever one it may be.
“I chose to kick for the football team because it’s the sport that they had in the fall that was close enough to soccer with kicking,” she said. “I thought I’d be decent at it.”