History was made in a high school football game last week. If you weren’t watching closely, you might have missed it. Briauna Grove sure won’t forget it anytime soon.
The freshman tight end for the Dubois Rams scored a touchdown in a 62-6 romp over the Hanna Elk Mountain Miners last Friday. She’s the first girl in Rams history to get into the end zone in a varsity football game. Quite possibly, she’s also the first girl to score a touchdown for any Wyoming high school football program. It’s not known for sure, as gender-specific records are not officially compiled and archived.
It was an early birthday present for Grove. The teenager turned 15 the day after her Rams hosted the Miners in Dubois on Oct. 13.
And talk about downplaying the achievement.
“I think Mr. Trembly wanted to give me a chance to be on the field with the seniors to see what that would be like,” Grove said.
Well, it was a little more than that, Bri. We actually asked head coach David Trembly what his thinking was there when he called No. 81’s number on a fourth and goal play from inside the 1-yard line. After all, the ponytailed pipsqueak hadn’t appeared in a game all season.
“We’ve been talking about maybe trying to get Bri a touchdown for a few weeks now,” Trembly said.
The original plan was to perhaps get the freshman a few touches the week before against Casper Christian, but that never happened. Then, all week in practice for the game with HEM, Trembly designed a few plays for Grove in case she got her chance.
It was important to have buy-in from the players. Trembly did not want Grove to simply see game time just for the novelty of it. He was rewarding a player “who put in the work,” he said.
To her credit, Grove never asked for any special treatment. She began playing football in seventh grade middle school where opponents were mostly around her size. The jump to varsity meant the 5-foot, 95-pound tight end would be facing players who outweighed her by an easy 100 pounds.
“Hey, she raises her own livestock and is tough as nails,” Trembly said. “She came out just like any other freshman. In practice, it didn’t matter who was running — Wyatt [Trembly at 5-10, 190] or Jonah [Oard at 5-11, 170] — she would step in front of them and get flattened.
“The guys noticed immediately. She didn’t shy away. She didn’t want to be treated any differently other than she dresses in a different locker room.”
“I kind of knew from the get-go I would need to be able to keep up with the boys and walk in their shoes. I knew I would need to work twice as hard in practice,” Grove said.
Trembly’s wife, Adria, saw it.
“She earned their respect. High school boys don't give you anything for free,” she said.
Full disclosure: Her son, Wyatt, is the team’s superstar and set an individual rushing record for 6-man 1A football last season with 2,502 yards from the line of scrimmage.
Back To The Game
Late in the second quarter with the Rams up by a bunch against the 1-6 Miners, it was time.
Coach Trembly told his running backs that if either of them broke into the open field and were on their way to a sure touchdown, why not run out of bounds at the 5-yard line or so and set up a chance for Briauna to punch it in?
Oard had just such an opportunity when it looked like he forgot the message, running right down the middle of the field he suddenly “slipped” and went down just before scoring.
Coach Trembly called it a legitimate slip, that the field was very muddy. Grove says she thinks he might have gotten tackled from behind. Only Oard knows if he could have scored, but at that point every player on the team wanted Grove to get a chance to find paydirt. It would be impossible to get a straight answer from any of them.
Into The Game
In comes No. 81.
Grove said she picked the number because that was one of the few remaining jerseys when freshmen picked that seemed like it might be small enough to fit her and not look like it had room to accommodate an additional player. If she had her way, she would have grabbed the No. 12 (she’s a Tom Brady fan), but that was already taken.
Quarterback Siler Hess called the play in the huddle — a 31 sweep. Grove would get the pitch and run around the right side to the end zone. It was a play they’d practiced all week. Easy.
“First play was for real,” Grove remembered.
Suddenly she was in a game for the first time, getting the ball. All week long her teammates had been lifting her up with words of encouragement.
But this wasn’t practice. Grove said she realizes her teammates play hard against her in practice but still, they are protecting her. They would never hurt her. This would be a real game situation against a team that was out to tackle a ball carrier. Any ball carrier.
“I just didn’t want to mess up, let the guys down,” Grove said.
Grove was supposed to get out of bounds if it wasn’t there to avoid being tackled and potentially injured.
She never made it that far. She was pounded into the turf.
“The moment I got tackled, I got up with a new attitude. I kind of knew now what to expect, what it felt like to get tackled by guys on a [varsity] football team that were not my teammates and friends,” Grove said. “It was a wake-up call. I was ready to go and wanted another chance.”
Her second-and-goal carry was a 39 sweep to the other side. Same result. Grove still didn’t get in.
Third down and back to the 31 sweep. By now, it’s obvious to every player on the HEM defense and everyone sitting in the stands that tiny No. 81 is in the backfield for one reason: They want her to score.
HEM wasn’t giving an inch. It was a matter of pride. Girl or not, the Miners were not just going to let her waltz in.
“They were playing defense,” coach Trembly assured.
For the third straight carry, Grove is stopped short of the goal line. Three carries for a total of four yards.
Fourth And Goal
Fourth down and goal from the 1-foot line. Coach Trembly called a timeout. No way was he going to kick a field goal. Grove was going to get the ball in the end zone some way. Coach huddled up his offense to explain how.
“We knew Hanna would expect us to run Bri wide again, so we decided to go right up the middle. We made this play up on the spot. We’d never practiced it,” Trembly said.
“I thought we were going to go outside. I’ve never taken a handoff before even in middle school, only pitches,” Grove admitted.
She was nervous. “Going up the middle; that’s where the big jumble of guys are.”
During the timeout, Trembly drew up the winning play. It was pretty much a sandlot prayer and a belief that his boys wanted their girl in that end zone.
“We pulled Wyatt out of the backfield and moved him to tight end up on the line with Kaleb [Gleim],” the coach said. “We had Jonah running blocking fullback in front of her. We just had our biggest guys out there and told the boys, ‘Blow a hole open for her.’
“If all else fails, I told Siler [Hess] to get in their behind Bri and push her across if he had to.”
Grove took the handoff and followed close behind Oard. It was tough going, but the final stats for a freshman TE/RB in her first varsity game were in the books: 4 carries, 5 yards, 1 touchdown. She did it.
“I just love this town and this community,” coach Trembly said.
The community loves him back. Battling cancer, the longtime coach announced this season would be his last on the sidelines after 15 years coaching football, 25 years teaching and coaching wrestling and track at the school as well.
“Stories like this, it’s more than football,” Trembly said. “These little subplots during a season where you get to be a part of something special, something that’s never been done before. Watching these kids grow and play for each other. That’s what makes this job so rewarding.”
Grove does not seem phased by her accomplishments in a male-dominated sport. She plays basketball, runs track and raised a pair of bottle-fed calves at her ranchette home. The Wyoming cowgirl says she could ride before she could walk.
The humble teen must have watched a Tom Brady postgame interview or two before. She was all about team when asked what it meant, what it felt like to be the first girl to score a TD in a Ram’s uniform, maybe the first in the state.
“My teammates, they are a great group of guys. They help me out a lot,” Grove said. “I know a lot of younger girls who have always looked up to me and I’m not sure why. Maybe now I guess I hope this could be an inspiration to them in some way.”