Homecoming queen kicks game-winning point during homecoming football game
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SUGAR CITY — The Sugar-Salem Diggers football team clinched a close victory Friday night — thanks to the school’s homecoming queen.
At halftime of the Sugar-Salem homecoming football game versus Marsh Valley, senior Sunny Bennion was on the field being recognized as the homecoming queen. Later that evening, she was on the gridiron again, but this time as the team’s kicker who was trying to help the Diggers continue their undefeated season.
At the end of four quarters, the game was forced to go into overtime with a score of 0-0. Both teams made a touchdown, but it was Bennion’s extra point she kicked through the goalposts that ultimately gave Sugar-Salem a 7-6 win.
“I wasn’t really nervous at all,” Bennion said about running on the field to kick the extra point. “I knew our team had it. They did really good the whole game. I just had confidence in the rest of my team.”
Friday night’s game was only the second time Bennion filled the slot as Sugar-Salem’s kicker. The homecoming king, Crew Clark, started the year as the kicker, but he broke his collarbone in the teams’ season opener. That left Sugar-Salem in need of a replacement.
The Monday morning after Clark suffered the injury, Sugar-Salem head coach Tyler Richins talked to Dan Bennion — Sugar-Salem defensive coordinator and Sunny’s dad — to get his input on offering Sunny a spot on the team. Sunny is on the girl’s soccer team, and Richins has noticed how consistent she is and how well she kicks the ball.
“I’ve seen her out kicking before with her dad and brothers (former Digger players) and we knew that she had quite a leg on her,” Richins explained. “When Crew got hurt, we got thinking what could we do? And I kept thinking Sunny might be our best option for our team to kick.”
By that Monday afternoon, Sunny was out practicing kicking on the football field.
“I told her that we weren’t going to have her do it unless she was the best,” he recalled. “We’re not just looking for her to be some token girl on a football team.”
Richins said because she’s been around the football team before ever officially joining, thanks to her family’s involvement, she was “a natural fit.” Still, he never expected a homecoming queen to win the homecoming game for his team.
“There’s a first time for everything,” Richins said with a smile. “If anybody can do it though, it’d be Sunny. We can rely on her to do what we need.”
From homecoming queen to the star of the homecoming football game, Sunny hopes other people learn from the opportunity she was given to play football. She hopes people realize they can break gender barriers and do what isn’t considered popular in society.
“Don’t be worried whether you’re a boy or a girl,” she said. “Go have fun, be part of that team and be another teammate.”
Sugar-Salem will be back in action Oct. 2. against Preston.