Merchant suits up for Huskies
By LAURA BROOKHART / Community Columnist
Meet Sophia Merchant, fourth grader and 77-pound played safety and tackle for the Huskies City League 105pound team led by Coach Stanley Funches.
“I began playing backyard football with my twin brother, Gabe and my older brother Alton and his friends when I was about 6,” Sophia said. “First I played touch football, but now I play tackle.”
“I think I would have wanted to try football even without their influence, though, because I just like sports,” she added. Sophia also plays soccer, basketball and softball.
“The guys on the team treat me like one of them now. They are quick to say, ‘Good tackle, Sophie!” she said.
The highlight of her season was making an interception when her team was behind 0-7, after which Helena went on to win 14-7. Her team heads into the playoffs 4-4, with Sophia contributing several key tackles.
Sophia described a typical practice, “We warm up and do Oklahomas and then we have a scrimmage.”
She proceeds confidently in detail, “We practice having two linemen blocking two opposite linemen while the running back goes up one hole—wherever the coach points. The linebacker doesn’t know which way he will have to go.”
Sophia enjoys watching Patriot football with her dad, Zulfi, and has been known to sneak in watching a little Auburn football when he is not around.
“Sophia can talk stats,” he noted. “And she attends some of the local high school games, but she likes playing more than she likes watching.”
Sophia’s determination and naturally competitive nature are conducive to carrying her further in the sport of her choice as she continues through high school.
“This was only my first season in football,” she said. “But now I know I like it enough to keep playing.”
Sophia also plays goalie on her soccer team and her dad says she is fearless. “She can block; I have seen her block ten goals. She dives, whatever she needs to do— that’s just her personality.”
This confident young athlete, who has grown up in Helena, will have the good fortune to be a Husky through high school and part of our ever-expanding sports programs.