Fennell armed to thrive

Sam Fennell loves football.

Her favorite NFL team is the New York Giants, and her favorite quarterback is Drew Brees.

Fennell even plays a little football — flag football, that is — at Foothill. And just like Brees has done with the New Orleans Saints, Fennell has dominated her opponents from behind center this season.

The senior has led the Falcons to a 9-2 record (6-0 in the Southeast League) by passing for 3,571 yards and 39 touchdowns with just eight interceptions halfway through the season.

“I played guys flag (football) when I was younger — I would say probably 7 (years old),” Fennell said. “I played that for a couple seasons, and when I turned 12, I got introduced to an all girls five-on-five league. I’ve played against a lot of my (current) teammates. We’ve all played in the league. We all grew up together pretty much.

“It’s a sport I grew up loving. I’ve been playing it since as long as I can remember. It’s just great to be out here in a sport I never dreamed I’d even have a chance to play in high school.”

This season, Fennell has averaged 324.6 yards passing per game for an offense that scores 33.1 points per game. The team has more than 40 plays in its playbook, some designed by the Falcons’ signal caller.

“Sam will come up with some plays,” Foothill coach Cynthia Guzman said. “At the beginning of the season, she’ll give me like six plays, and we’ll run the plays during practice, then kind of fix them.

“She obviously has been instrumental in reading the game, knowing the game. She’s one of the best. A lot of referees are like ‘Dang, she should be playing Friday nights.’ ”

Referees aren’t the only ones taking notice, either. Several coaches have approached Guzman after games to talk about the Foothill standout.

“I think they are blown away by her arm,” Guzman said. “They always say that they just can’t beat our quarterback.”

Fennell began her flag football career at wide receiver but made the transition to quarterback during middle school. She was the backup to one of her current Foothill teammates in the flag football league run by the Western Athletic Sports Unified Program.

“That’s where I really started quarterbacking,” Fennell said. “I was a terrible quarterback when I started. I had terrible footwork, and I couldn’t get the ball to anyone, but I could chuck a ball 50 yards. They (Bill and Joyce Cheverino — president and secretary of the WASUP league) just developed me and stayed with me.”

Fennell says her success on the field is a result of good coaching and great teammates.

“I’ve been blessed with the girls I have around me and the coaching staff,” Fennell said. “I will make mistakes, and every time I practice I have to learn and grow as a player. My team does that really well around me, too. I have a great wide receiver set and good blocking in front of me.

“I might have a 300-yard game, but that doesn’t show the girl who made a one-handed catch that made me look great. That’s what a lot of it is. Every single one of these girls I can throw a pass to and believe they’re going to catch it. That’s really something special because a lot of teams don’t have that.”

Fennell attributes her competitiveness to a certain chip on her shoulder.

“People have always told girls, ‘You can’t play football,’ ” Fennell said. “Yes we can. And we have just as much fun.”