By Rick Foster, Sun Chronicle
MANSFIELD, Mass. — July 20, 2017 — When Mansfield High School teacher Hillary Crook puts her game face on, woe be any offensive lineman with thoughts of getting her hands on the quarterback.
“I’m pretty competitive,” said Crook, a 29-year-old rookie offensive guard for the Boston Renegades full-contact semi-pro women’s football team. “When someone’s after our quarterback, I don’t mind the blocking and hitting.”
Crook, who lives in Norton, and her red-and-black clad teammates are likely to have all they can handle Saturday night, when they take on the Dallas Elite for the Division 1 national championship of the Women’s Football Alliance.
Both teams were undefeated in the regular season. Crook calls Saturday’s game the Super Bowl of women’s football. Officially, it’s the W Bowl.
The championship game, which is being held in Pittsburgh, is scheduled to be shown on ESPN3 beginning at 7 p.m.
Crook teaches health and physical education at Mansfield High where she also coaches field events for the track team.
A three-sport athlete at Mansfield High School and a track and field star on her Jacksonville University team, she said she was intrigued when a friend told her about the women’s team even though she had never played football.
“A lot of people don’t realize that it’s real football with pads and real hitting and tackling,” she said. “When we began playing other teams and the real hitting started, I thought ‘this is the best thing ever.”
The Renegades, with about 55 team members in all, plays its home games at Catholic Memorial High School in West Roxbury in a season that runs from April through July. Crowds are generally modest and participants don’t win NFL-sized contracts.
“We’re basically all playing for the love of the game,” Crook said.
Boston got its first women’s tackle football team in 2000 with the birth of the New England Storm. The future of women’s football in the Boston area was solidified when Ernie Boch Jr. purchased two of the existing women’s teams and merged them into a new franchise, the Boston Militia.
The Militia went on to compile three national championships over a five-year span.
Boch later exited football, but his place was taken by a new organization under the auspices of Boston Women’s Football LLC which launched the Renegades.
The Renegades’ website says the team is hoping to raise the visibility and popularity of women’s football. That aim could receive a big boost in the New England area if the Renegades are able to knock off rival Dallas Saturday.
“We’d love to be able to bring another championship home to Boston,” Crook said.
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