Trio of female athletes, all starters for WVHS, lead the way for future female football hopefuls

HEMET, Calif., — When opposing football teams line up on the fifty-yard line against West Valley High School some of the opposing competitors are surprised to see junior Vanessa Ledbetter and sophomore Ciara Green facing them on the team’s starting roster. They are further surprised – and often shocked – when the two female players help lead the Mustangs to victory – with the team currently sitting at 3-1 in the standings. A third female player on the team’s starting roster, sophomore Lyric Jones, is currently out for the season with a torn ACL.

With Vanessa playing right guard, Ciara fielding positions as receiver, corner, and running back, and Lyric playing receiver and safety, the three young women fill a total of five positions and have proven to be integral to their team.

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Despite playing in a predominantly male-dominated sport, West Valley coaches Joe Perez and Tim Franzese say watching the girls play has been inspiring, with Coach Perez describing the three athletes as fearless.

Although they admitted that when the girls suited up for practice over the summer their male counterparts weren’t exactly sure to make of their new teammates, the coaches say it wasn’t long before the boys realized that the trio of females were capable players and could handle as much as they dished out.

The boys are no longer holding back and the girls are now treated the same as any other player, Coach Perez explained.

Despite playing in a predominantly male-dominated sport, West Valley coaches Joe Perez and Tim Franzese say watching the girls play has been inspiring, with Coach Perez describing the three athletes as fearless. (Left to right: Coach Brent Perez, Vanessa Ledbetter, Lyric Jones, Ciara Green, Coach Tim Franzese) HUSD photo

Vanessa, the veteran player of the trio, played last year and was West Valley’s first female football player and her coaches have said she helped pave the way for other females to try out for the team. Following Vanessa’s lead, both Lyric and Ciara tried out for the team this year and after earning spots during pre-season tryouts they were eventually made starters for both of the school’s freshman/sophomore (Frosh/Soph) and varsity teams.

Ciara has the distinction of being the first female player to carry the football for West Valley during a game and already has scored three touchdowns this year.

Although Lyric was injured in a tournament over the summer and is out for the season, she says she has every intention of playing again once she has been medically cleared. 

All three athletes say they were inspired by their brothers to pursue football, with Vanessa recalling watching with envy while her younger brother practiced and later played for a local youth football league.

Vanessa says she would run the same drills as the football players from the sideline and even asked her mom if she could join the all-boys team. Although her mom initially tried to steer her toward cheerleading, the future athlete knew her passion was to pursue and play football.

She also said football has been a great outlet for her to get her aggression out while breaking strong-held stereotypes that have long favored men’s sports over women’s. 

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Coaches Perez and Franzese have said they are proud of the girls’ accomplishments and look forward to seeing them help their teams to a winning season, and with West Valley football team’s current standing at 3-1, they are well on their way. Good luck to the team in their upcoming games!



Contact the writer: trevor.rcns@gmail.com

Trevor Montgomery, 50, moved in 2017 to the Intermountain area of Shasta County from Riverside County and runs Riverside County News Source (RCNS) and Shasta County News Source (SCNS).

Additionally, he writes or has written for several other news organizations; including Riverside County-based newspapers Valley News, Valley Chronicle, Anza Valley Outlook, and Hemet & San Jacinto Chronicle; the Bonsall/Fallbrook Village News in San Diego County; and Mountain Echo in Shasta County. He is also a regular contributor to Thin Blue Line TV and Law Enforcement News Network and has had his stories featured on news stations throughout the Southern California and North State regions.

Trevor spent 10 years in the U.S. Army as an Orthopedic Specialist before joining the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department in 1998. He was medically retired after losing his leg, breaking his back, and suffering both spinal cord and brain injuries in an off-duty accident. (Click here to see segment of Discovery Channel documentary of Trevor’s accident.)

During his time with the sheriff’s department, Trevor worked at several different stations; including Robert Presley Detention Center, Southwest Station in Temecula, Hemet/Valle Vista Station, Ben Clark Public Safety Training Center, and Lake Elsinore Station; along with other locations.

Trevor’s assignments included Corrections, Patrol, DUI Enforcement, Boat and Personal Water-Craft based Lake Patrol, Off-Road Vehicle Enforcement, Problem Oriented Policing Team, and Personnel/Background Investigations. He finished his career while working as a Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Investigator and was a court-designated expert in child abuse and child sex-related crimes.

Trevor has been married for more than 30 years and was a foster parent to more than 60 children over 13 years. He is now an adoptive parent and his “fluid family” includes 13 children and 18 grandchildren.

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