She’s 13 years-old and in eighth grade. She likes Thomas Rhett and Drake. She thinks her science teacher rocks and art class comes easy to her — art pretty much runs in her family.

Cara Carranza seems like an average girl at York Middle School. But one of her favorite things to do is line up opposite a receiver on the football field.

Cara is the only girl in York who plays football. It’s her first season playing, and it’s a long time coming. She’s wanted to go out for a while now.

“I kind of always wanted to go out for it,” she said, “but I’ve never had the courage until this year.”

She was going to go out for it last year as a seventh grader and even asked the principal if it was possible for girls to go out. Even after she got the ok, she didn’t.

“I kind of put it off because I thought less of myself, like, ‘I can’t do that. It’s probably better to do what everyone else is doing. Girls go to volleyball and boys go to football,’” she said. “But this year, I was like, ‘Who cares what they think.’”

So what changed all the sudden? Why finally go out?

“I told myself I’d be a better person,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve had a lot more courage in class and out of class.

“I think I came to school this year with a different attitude. I definitely know that,” she added. “I think I’m a lot happier this year. Football is definitely one of the highlights of my day.”

On the football field, she wants to play corner all the time. Loves it. She has to play receiver when on offense, but when they don’t have the ball, she’s out on her own island.

“I like it because I get to tackle,” she said when asked why she likes defense over offense. “It’s just fun to hit.”

Is she at a disadvantage when playing against physically bigger and faster boys in a contact sport? Does she feel she can hold her own?

“Usually I can,” she said. “Some of them are complete studs. But most of them I keep up with.”

Is she as tough as they are?

“Well, I can hit all of them, so …”

Cara’s other options in sports are volleyball and cross country. She’s played volleyball for a couple years but was still looking for a change. What about cross country?

“Well, I don’t like running. So that’s off my list,” she said with a smile.

Football has been a life-long passion for her. Even when she was doing things with other girls, football has always been with her and her family.

“When I was little I wanted to be a cheerleader,” she said. “I was in mini Dukettes in the second grade. I played soccer. I did everything – except for cross country.

“Football was kind of one of the things I grew up with,” she added. “Plus, it also helps me kind of stay in touch with my mom.”

Cara’s mother, Deborah, passed away when she was little.

“Our family always watched football together,” she said. “Some of my best memories were of watching football.”

Cara said she wants to play high school football in the future. But for now, she’s enjoying school and life.

She’s enjoying being out on the field. It’s one of the things that give her courage and confidence to try new things. Things that she wants to do, not what she’s supposed to do.

Football is one of the highlights of Cara Carranza’s day.