Bay City homecoming queen a real kick
BAY CITY - Karina Clements has a picture in her mind of what will transpire.
She'll run out on the field after a Bay City touchdown. She'll be nervous, but she'll have confidence in her line. She'll line up behind the holder and wait for the snap before kicking the ball through the uprights.
Clements hasn't had the opportunity to kick an extra point this season, but when she does it will cap a year like no other for the senior, who has done what no female at Bay City has done before and nobody thought she would do.
Lila Clements was so sure her adopted daughter would change her mind about playing football that she sat in her car in the parking lot after dropping her off for the first day of two-a-day practices.
Lila Clements waited for five hours while Karina flipped tires and ran with her teammates. She hasn't missed a practice since.
"I came out on the first day of two-a-days and I thought I was going to show him here's my field goal and he would tell me we don't need you or we can use you," Karina Clements said. "He didn't tell me anything and I was just a part of the team and now I'm out here kicking."
First-year Bay City coach Dan Burk suggested Clements give football a try after getting a tip from assistant Darin Dabelgott, who coached Clements on the unbeaten Ladycats' District 47-4A champion soccer team.
"We were looking for somebody with a good leg and she just kind of came on out," Burk said. "She's a joy to have around. She probably has the best attitude on the team. She's just a great kid to have around."
The Blackcats have needed the boost. They fell to 0-6 and 0-2 in District 23-4A play with a 48-0 loss to Richmond Foster on Friday night.
"It's been extremely fun," said Clements, who won't turn 18 until July 5. "I wouldn't take it back at all. I'm getting stronger and stronger for soccer season and I'm seeing improvements and it's been a blast."
Clements puts on her No. 37 jersey and the rest of her uniform in a separate dressing room before joining the team for Burk's pregame instructions.
She has been readily accepted by her teammates.
"They've done really well," Burk said. "They've shown her respect. They act right when she's around. I'm not so sure it hasn't helped our behavior level because we kind of threatened them with their life if they said something that could affect her in a bad way."
Clements won over her teammates by participating in every workout and team activity, although she's almost certainly the only player to be told she smells nice in the weight room.
"I'm pretty happy there's a girl on our team for the first time," said fellow kicker Humberto Ibarra. "I really don't think about her being a female. We kick and have some fun out here."
Clements has noticed quite a bit of difference between her football and soccer teammates.
"Girls, we cope with each other better than guys," she said. "I wouldn't expect guys to do that because they're more manly than us. It's like a whole another atmosphere of energy and talking. Here it's all like manly stuff. I can't explain it."
Clements' popularity extends beyond the football team.
She was elected homecoming queen by a vote of the student body and received her crown while dressed in her football uniform before the Columbia game on Oct. 5 at Memorial Stadium.
"I was talking to my mom and I couldn't really hear what they were saying," Clements said. "One of my friends came and put the crown on my head. I'm like 'Oh my God that was me.'"
Lila Clements was overjoyed when her daughter was named homecoming queen, even though she knew Karina would have rather been "in a dress with her hair done."
"She feels like she's part of the team," Lila said. "She just been a joy in everybody's life."
Bay City's record aside, this season has been a treat for Lila Clements, a Bay City graduate, her husband, Dalton, and sons Dalton and Dustin, who were members of the Bay City baseball and tennis teams.
Lila Clements' late uncle scored the first touchdown at Memorial Stadium, and she's been a long-time season ticket holder to Blackcats games.
"This has been our most exciting season," Lila Clements said. "I was kind of shocked when she told me she wanted to play. But I think she can kick. We always show up at 6:30 so we can watch her kick in warm-ups."
Karina's longest field goal was a 40-yarder she made at a kicking camp in West Columbia.
She will be ready for her opportunity to kick when it comes and will have few regrets if it doesn't.
"I want to go to college," she said. "I want to play soccer. It's something that I'm good at and it's something that I love and I'm passionate for and I like it. Or, I can play football if anyone is looking for a kicker."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.