Standing on the sidelines next to her teammates during Moriarty football games, Ahava Goldfein blended right in.

Other than her braided ponytail, and not being as tall as some of the other players, it was not obvious that Goldfein wasn’t one of the boys—until she took off her helmet.

“They can’t usually tell,” she said. “A lot of the time my braid ends up tucked into my jersey, and I’ve had some funny reactions when they find out I’m a girl, but I think the only way they know is when they’ve heard—or seen me without my helmet on.”

Goldfein was a starting receiver this season on Moriarty’s JV squad and a backup on the varsity team. On two separate occasions—once in a JV game at Española and then during a home varsity game against Pojoaque—Goldfein made school history.

During the JV game in Española, she caught a pass for a 2-point conversion. It was her first catch of the season, and more significant, she became the first girl to score during a Moriarty football game.

“My team went crazy, they were so excited,” Ahava said. “They were all cheering, and like, people were giving me high-fives and hugging me, and one kid lifted me up.”

Goldfein said her teammates told her what some of the Española players had said about her.

“So, apparently No. 4 was like, ‘Oh yeah, you don’t have to cover her, she’s a girl,’ cuz somehow they knew, and I think one of their linebackers was like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re right,’” Goldfein said. “It was pretty good, I got open and the defender was kinda off to the side, and I was looking right at the quarterback when he threw it to me and I caught it in the end zone—it was very exciting.”

On Oct. 15, Goldfein set another historic Moriarty milestone when she was sent in during the second half of the varsity team’s 53-6 blowout over Pojoaque.

“That was the first time a girl played varsity for Moriarty apparently,” Ahava said. “My coaches told me, they said, ‘You know you made history tonight.’”

“We’ve had some girls before,” Moriarty head coach Gabe Romero said. “As far as I know, none have ever got in a varsity game.”

Goldfein, a 5-foot-2 junior, is not the only girl who played high school football in New Mexico this past season. Estancia High School freshman Lucille Summers played for the Bears. Taos High School had a girl on its varsity roster, and Santa Fe High, who the Pintos opened their season against, had two.

They are among the growing number of girls playing high school football in the United States, more than 2,400 nationwide, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

Goldfein said she was a competitive gymnast when she was younger, but never played a sport for a school, so this past fall, she decided to go out for one.

Ahava Goldfein on the field with the Moriarty Pintos. Photos by Ger Demarest.

“I really appreciate everything that comes with sports, and I’m a much happier person when I’m like moving and doing stuff and working hard and that sort of thing,” she said.

Goldfein said she chose football because she loves the game.

“I always had wanted to play football, or at least thought it would be really cool to,” Ahava said. “And I was like, well, I’m small, I’m a girl, and then eventually I decided that that wasn’t a good enough excuse to not do it.”

Goldfein admitted she was scared at first, not knowing how it would go, but she said the boys on the team were very supportive.

Coach Romero said there were some logistical things to work out with locker rooms and bus rides, but as the season went on, “she was just another player.”

Romero added that the boys “were a little gun shy” at first, “But once somebody hit her and they saw that she could take it, the message was, she’s out here and gonna be just like anybody else—she’s tough, she really is.”

With football season over, Goldfein said she’s going to take a whack at wrestling. She might also go out for track in the spring. And next fall, she said she’ll probably be back on the football field.