Kelly Wagner & her Parents

VS Kicker named Homecoming Queen!

VS Football Player Named Homecoming Queen
By Dean Close · 11:10pm September 29th, 2011 · 11 hours ago
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Homecoming Queen and VS football player Kelly Wagner, with her parents, Cassandra and Ron.

It's a common sight at halftime of a high school Homecoming football game: The King and Queen are introduced. One takes off the helmet that matches the color of those worn by several dozen teammates. The other, who has gotten dressed up for the occasion, comes down from the bleachers. Together they stand in front of the crowd -- and way too many cameras -- and try to keep smiling as countless parents, peers and journalists take a picture.

That will happen tonight, when Vinton-Shellsburg plays Anamosa for the annual Homecoming game.

But this time, it will be the Homecoming Queen who takes off her helmet and heads toward the waiting cameras, while the King walks down from the bleachers to take his place at her side.

Kelly Wagner has already made school history this football season. She became the first female ever to score points for the Vikings when she kicked an extra point against South Tama four weeks ago. She kicked two more extra points that night, and four more two weeks later against W. Dubuque.

On Thursday night, Kelly, who moved to Vinton while still in high school, was named the 2011 Vinton-Shellsburg Homecoming Queen.

"It's awesome," she said, after helping the senior girls play against the juniors in the annual Powder Puff game. "When I first came here, I didn't think the others would accept me the way they have. I think this football stuff has helped a lot."

Viking coach Pat Farley was aware of Kelly's success on the soccer field; she played on traveling club teams for years before becoming a starter for the Vikette team. She set her first Vinton-Shellsburg school record in April by scoring three goals in one game.

Farley knew the Vikings had some "question marks" at the kicking position, so he asked Kelly to consider trying out for the team.

It was not the first time a football coach made her that offer.

"I was at Iowa Valley and the coach asked me to try out there," she said. "But my mom was against it."

This time, she said, "I was a senior, and I decided to accept the offer."

'Like a family'

When coach Farley recruited Kelly, he told her she would have to "commit" to the football program, and she has.

While Kelly only trots onto the field for only handful of plays on Friday nights, during the week she is as much a part of team as every one of the guys. She's at every practice, and in the weight room.

"She caught on very quickly," said Farley.

The players have been very good at treating the first girl in school history to play football as just another member of the team, said Farley.

"We had several guys who seemed to take the lead in saying 'She's one of us,'" said Farley.

The coach expected that response from his players, but he also said that Kelly's presence on the team has caused some positive dynamics that he still can't quite explain.

"The biggest difference is that our football players are more balanced; the team feels more like a family," Farley said the morning after his team's kicker was crowned Queen.

On Thursday night, at the Homecoming pep rally, Kelly sat with her parents, Ron and Cassandra, on the bench with the other Homecoming candidates, and her mother's arm tightly wrapped around her.

Then the announcer told the crowd it was time to name the new Queen and King.

Last year's Queen, Codi Snyder, walked among the candidates as they stood on the track, in the traditional circle, shivering against the cold autumn breeze. Finally, Kelly felt two hands placing a tiara on her head.

Another soccer player, John Levis, was crowned Homecoming King by 2010 King Alex McGee. John was one of the students who led the campaign to get a boys varsity soccer team added at Vinton-Shellsburg; that team begins its first practice in a few months.

The cameras came out again; Kelly and John stood, smiling, trying to look at several photographers at once.

Then it was her parents' turn. After several more photos for the family, Kelly changed out of her dress and into her purple Powder Puff t-shirt.

"This has been the biggest opportunity of her life," said Kelly's father, Ron, as he stood watching his daughter play football -- with other girls, for a change. "All of the students have been very welcoming towards her."

The players, say Kelly, have treated her like she's one of the team. "They all treat me with respect," she said.

Perhaps the biggest gesture of respect came from the Vikings' star running back, Nolan Edwards, during the team's scrimmage a week before the season.

During that game, Kelly kicked off for the very first time in her life.

"I asked Coach Chvala, 'What do I do after I kick the ball?'" Kelly recalls.

Coach Aric Chvala told her to play like a free safety, and move toward the runner if he gets past the other defenders, "and try to stop him."

Edwards received the kick on that August night, and ran and fought his way past 10 members of the kickoff team. Soon, the only thing standing between No. 34 and a touchdown was No. 7. He faked left; she stayed still. He faked right. Same response. So he went straight. The two collided; Kelly landed hard on her back. But she succeeded in bringing Edwards down and preventing a touchdown -- something that several guys on other high school teams would later fail to do.

"She showed on that play that she was one of us," said Coach Farley.

Was Kelly sore after that first tackle?

"Yes," she said. "I had a bruise on my leg for two weeks after that."

"And another one on her chin," adds her father.

In a few weeks, the season will be over. Kelly will hang up her cleats and prepare for the spring soccer season. Then it's on to college, and hopefully a career in her favorite field, psychology. And of course, more soccer.

"I want to be a coach someday," she said.

But for the next few weeks, Kelly's life will be all about the American kind of football.

Tonight, when Vinton-Shellsburg scores a touchdown, spectators will begin hearing a loud chant as the extra point team trots onto the field: "Kelly! Kelly!" Then a Viking will snap the ball to No. 6, who will put the ball in place.

Then No 7, the Homecoming Queen, will kick it.

Does Kelly know how much school history she has made?

"Yes," she says. "It's been awesome."

(And just in case you are wondering, Kelly is not the first Homecoming Queen to play football in the USA. At least two high school girls did that last year; another Homecoming Queen suited up with her team in 2009.)

See a story about Kelly's first points on the football field HERE.

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