WILLIAMSBURG — While most girl student-athletes their age are getting ready for their respective basketball and cheerleading seasons, both Lylah Mattingly and Allie Wilson are preparing to do battle on the gridiron.
Mattingly and Wilson play for the Williamsburg Yellow Jacket football team. They’re not putting on a uniform to stand on the sidelines, though. They’re contributing by either making a catch, scoring a touchdown or delivering a key tackle.
Mattingly is a receiver for the team and has already caught a touchdown pass during a scrimmage while Wilson has made some key tackles at the defensive line position.
But none of this is a surprise to coach Todd Mattingly, who is also Lylah’s father.
“Allie and Lylah have fit in like one of the guys,” Todd Mattingly said. “We have such a great group of young men, they treat them like a teammate. I was worried last year when Lylah came out, but the boys love these two girls.”
Teammate Herman Canada said both Mattingly and Wilson have been solid additions to the team.
“Lylah is really fast and a good teammate,” he said. “She’s an overall good person. Allie is very physical and does good. She’s a good lineman, and we depend on her. She’s just as physical as everyone else.
“They both help us a lot,” he added. “We look at both of them as good teammates, and that’s how they want to be thought of. They’re one of us, and we are all supportive of each other and want to win. I’m glad they’re on our side.”
Lylah Mattingly said she had an interest in playing football at an early age.
“I used to play flag football and wished I had played fifth and sixth-grade football, but I decided to start playing last year,” she said.
She wanted to ‘out-do’ her sister Selena, who played football in fourth grade, so she decided to pick up the sport in seventh grade.
“I’ve always thought about playing football,” she said. “I have a brother (Eli) that played and my sister played fourth grade, so I told her one time that I’d always out-do her, so here I am playing in eighth grade.”
Todd Mattingly said he wasn’t surprised when Lylah decided she wanted to pick up another sport to play.
“We are a football family,” he said. “Her brother played 13 years and Selena played a year as well. Lylah just loves to play everything. She gets that from her mom.”
So what interested Wilson into playing football?
“Lylah talked me into playing, and it’s been fun,” she said. “I play other sports, and enjoy them, too. I like the contact and being physical, so this is a good sport to do that. I’ve watched football some times and enjoyed it.”
Things weren’t easy at first. Both girls admitted they had butterflies once they made the team.
“I was nervous, but I knew a lot of people on the team, and my dad is a coach, so that helped keep from being too nervous,” Lylah Mattingly said. “It’s a different sport. It’s different than when you’re just playing against boys than girls. It’s just a tougher sport. It's more fun to me. It’s not like basketball, it’s really fast-paced.”
“I was nervous at first,” Wilson added. “I was worried I might get hurt or made fun of since I was one of two girls on the team, but it was different than I thought.”
Both girls agreed with coach Mattingly that the support from their teammates has been an added plus.
“It felt good (scoring a touchdown during last week’s scrimmage), but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without all of the help from the guys on the team,” Lylah Mattingly said. “They were really cheering me on and happy that I was able to score a touchdown.”
“I felt really awkward the first time I was in the locker room,” Wilson said. “I felt out of place, but everyone has been really supportive. The guys on the team and the coaches have really been great. I have great teammates. They’re always teaching me things and try to help from getting hurt.”
Todd Mattingly has nothing but praise for his team when it came to accepting both girls as teammates.
“This group of young men we have is outstanding. They love having the girls on the team. I love these girls, but the boys have been so supportive of them,” he said. “I can not repeat enough how great this group of young men has been. They are so supportive of Allie and Lylah. I love this team because they are such good people and work so hard.”
And when it comes to both girls contributing to the field — so far, so good.
“Allie has done well on the defensive line,” Todd Mattingly said. “I’ve coached her for years in softball, and she is just a competitive girl and likes physical play. Lylah is fast and strong. She works hard and is not scared. All the boys respect her. It probably helps that she is my daughter, too. Both girls contribute to the team in their own way.”
With both girls playing multiple sports (Lylah now plays four) they’re not sure what the future holds when it comes to playing football in high school, but they did give some advice to other girls who might want to play football in the future.
“I would like to play in high school,” Lylah Mattingly said. “The big thing is I want to see if I can work it out with volleyball. I think anyone can do this. Just go for it.”
“When I go out there, I want to have fun and do well,” Wilson said. “It’s fun to go out there and tackle people. It doesn’t matter that I’m a girl when I’m playing. I just go out there and play. Don’t worry about what people think, and just do what makes you happy.”