North Dakota homecoming heroine tackles the tiara and the turf
Alicia Patton lives in two different worlds. One is familiar, one completely foreign.
The Finley-Sharon High School homecoming queen spends much of her spare time competing in pageants, vying for scholarship money and titles in North Dakota wearing perfectly applied makeup, expertly quaffed hair and expensive dresses. She calls it her "passion."
On Friday nights, however, Patton trades eye makeup for eye black as a safety and receiver for the Hope-Page-Finley-Sharon 9-man football team.
This, if you haven't already guessed, is a realm she's just getting acquainted with.
"I guess I just didn't like volleyball," said Patton, a senior who is the reigning Miss Grand Forks Outstanding Teen. "I didn't know anything about (football) until I played. It just sounded like a fun thing to do. I can look back and say that I played varsity football when I was in high school."
She will have plenty to look back on.
Patton's worlds collided last Friday when she was named
Finley-Sharon's homecoming queen at halftime of the Spartans' game against Richland.
Patton, who turns 18 next month, accepted the crown in full uniform next to homecoming king and football teammate, Lynn Carlson.
Later in the night, coach Chad Kainz put Patton into the game at safety with the Spartans ahead 29-0 in the fourth quarter.
She intercepted a pass in her first varsity game.
"I was kind of just hoping I didn't screw up," said Patton, whose team takes on Sargent Central today in Foreman. "I let my guy, who I was supposed to be guarding, pass me. I saw the ball coming, so I figured I better go get it so I don't get in trouble for letting him pass me. ... It was pretty cool. I just got my first tackle on (last) Tuesday (in a junior varsity game). I was pretty stoked about it, I guess."
It was a perfect night.
After all, how many homecoming queens can talk at the dance about jumping a pass route or picking off a pass in that night's football victory?
But the reality is Patton spends most of her time on the Spartans junior varsity, learning the game from coaches and players. She freely admits she didn't know what a running back was until the third day of practice.
"She's doing fine," said Kainz, who first coached a girl on the football team two years ago when Katie VanZee played offensive and defensive line as a senior. "She's a pretty coachable kid. Obviously, she's at a disadvantage because she doesn't have years of experience. But she tries hard and she works hard in practice."
Patton isn't trying to be a pioneer.
But she's not treating her football endeavor as a joke, either.
She's constantly asking questions in practice and she studies the playbook during study hall with Carlson and other teammates.
Patton's tiny 5-foot-2 inch frame makes her easily spotted among the 25 Spartan players on the sideline. And her bright pink mouth guard stands out from across the field.
But, for the most part, Patton leaves the pageant world behind on Friday nights.
"Just the kind of person Alicia is, I figured she would try hard," said Carlson, an offensive and defensive lineman. "She's not going to give up. She'll try her hardest and do what she can. ... It's not so weird. I guess, by now, she's one of the guys."