Looking back, Emily Rentschler describes one of her scariest moments on a football field as also one of her most special as Encinal High's place-kicker.
After getting drilled by a West Alameda County Conference rival last season on a point-after attempt, Rentschler wasn't treated like a girl by the other Jets players. She was treated like a teammate, and that's just what she wanted.
As a teammate picked up Rentschler by the pads after she went flying backward, other Encinal players stood up to the opposing team for what they believed to be a cheap shot on their 5-foot-2 kicker.
"The reaction I got (from teammates) was really amazing," Rentschler said. "They didn't coddle me. It wasn't that they were mad that it was a girl who got hit, it was that their teammate got hit."
Rentschler isn't the first female football player at Encinal, but she is still part of a rare breed.
Though her teammates are accepting and protective of her, Rentschler said because she's a girl playing a male-dominated spot, she feels she constantly has to prove she belongs. She puts pressure on herself every practice to perform at a high level.
"Football's a sport where you really have to earn your spot and earn respect, and I took that very seriously," said Rentschler, who is also senior class president. "It took awhile for the guys to warm up to me, but they weren't mean. They were great. I just had to prove myself and prove that I was serious about the sport."
Rentschler started football not because she was intent on breaking gender barriers, but because Encinal simply needed someone to handle the place-kicking duties. Jim Saunders, an assistant to head coach Joe Tenorio, had seen Rentschler kick during a football unit of P.E. class and encouraged her to try out.
A longtime competitive soccer player, Rentschler became the varsity team's starting place-kicker as a junior, beating out two boys who were also vying for the job.
She says negative reaction from opponents has been minimal, absorbing a questionable hit just that one time. Many others are impressed the Jets have a girl who helps them win games.
When Encinal faced Aptos earlier this season, Rentschler made a game-winning 20-yard field goal with four seconds left. Afterward, she was congratulated by some of the Aptos players.
"I was expecting a lot of negativity because we had just beat them and I had just beat them, but they were really cool about it," Rentschler said.
Rentschler also kicked a career-long 30-yard field goal in that 13-10 season-opening victory. The next week, she converted all six of her PAT tries.
She said the support of her teammates, her relationship with holder Kealii Auelua and the encouragement of Saunders have all contributed to her success.
"This team is really great," Rentschler said. "The coaches are really cool about it, they treat me the same as everyone else, which I respect a lot. Encinal's a great place, especially for girls to try new things."
AN INCREDIBLE START: Moreau Catholic running back Jason Hinton ran for 200 yards on Friday against St. Patrick-St. Vincent.
That's a career game for many running backs, but that's the least amount of yards he's rushed for in a game this season.
The dynamic junior already has run for 1,109 yards on 89 carries (13.4 yards per attempt) with 13 touchdowns. He's also caught nine passes for 145 yards and three TDs, and scored on a kick return. In his first three games, he rushed for 303, 272 and 334 yards, respectively.
"I've never seen anything like it," said Andrew Cotter, in his sixth season as the Mariners' head coach and his 12th overall. "He's been blessed with a gift ... that gift is being a heck of a football player."
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Hinton is certainly on colleges' radar.
"I get calls maybe twice a week for him right now. I think it's going to pick up considering what he's doing," Cotter said.
The Mariners (4-0) have needed his offense. They beat both Piedmont and Mt. Eden by just one touchdown (28-21 and 50-43, respectively). Moreau Catholic also defeated Mt. Diablo 42-11 and St. Patrick-St. Vincent 65-48.
The Mariners host John F. Kennedy-Fremont on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Mission Valley Athletic League opener for both teams. With Hinton, it appears Moreau Catholic is a league title contender.
"Obviously, we are going to need everybody to step up (this league season). A lot of his success has to do with the offensive line. They've been doing a great job," Cotter said. "I think Jason is going to help us move forward, hopefully toward a title."
Staff writer Phil Jensen contributed to this notebook. Follow Stephanie Hammon on Twitter at twitter.com/stephhammon.