In the small town of Westerly, RI, a young girl made football history this week. Her name is Tessa Bliven. She is ten years old and is in fifth grade.
Bliven is the starting quarterback for the micros team, consisting of age groups 7-10. The Bulldog’s micro team played last Saturday at the Westerly Youth Football Field. Bliven started as quarterback for the team. They won 32-0. She is the first woman in Westerly history to be the starting quarterback of any age division. She is one of the two girls who are playing for the micro division.
Prepared for her career, she participated in several training camps and played flag football for the past several years. The sport has been a part of her life since she was six years old.
The community of Westerly has opened their arms to this young, dedicated player. "We are very thankful to this organization for welcoming Tessa, giving her the opportunity and the chance," said Kristin Bliven, Tessa’s mom in an NBC 10 interview. "Everyone has been so supportive."
Westerly is my home. I grew up spending countless Friday nights watching football games at the peewee field and Westerly High School. Football is a huge part of the Westerly community. My town is home to one of the nation’s oldest football rivalries between Westerly and our neighboring town - the beautiful Stonington, Connecticut. The “Turkey Day” game, as we call it, is played every year on Thanksgiving against the Stonington Bears. The rivalry began over 100 years ago in 1911, before women could even vote. The teams played each other on Thanksgiving in 1922 and made football a tradition. Two towns, two different states, and one special rivalry. Last year, both teams were not able to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic - the first time in almost a century.
Stonington also possesses a young woman who is talented on the football field - nine-year-old Reagan. She plays on both offense and defense, starts as cornerback, and serves as the backup quarterback.
The future of the turkey day game is women. With hard work and dedication, you can be any kind of person you want to be. Tessa breaks the stigma that certain activities, especially sports, are limited to gender. Tessa has proved that. I hope the next four years she is preparing to bring WHS to a victory at the “Turkey Day” game. While her peewee season just started, her football career looks very promising.
She will continue to inspire not just women, but young athletes everywhere.