Jeff Jacobs: Guilford's Brianna Seixas wanted to be a 'football player.' Her hard work was rewarded with a touchdown

GUILFORD — In the weight room at halftime of Guilford’s SCC Tier III game against Lyman Hall, coach Ant Salvati gave Brianna Seixas a signal and asked if she knew how to run the play.

“Yeah, it’s what I’ve always run,” the senior answered.

“I also hadn’t run a route where I caught a ball in like a year and a half. It was alright. I’ll run what I usually do.”

Her first play in, she said she read the wrong signal and ran the wrong route. Her second play she got it right.

For those who come to understand Brianna Seixas’ story, it would prove all together fitting.

The touchdown play is called Tight End Stick. Seixas ran it perfectly. Quarterback Tyler Hilgert found her open in the end zone in the third quarter for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

“The ball just sat there in my chest,” she said. “I’m like, ‘Do I have it?’ I was thinking about it before and I was going to throw the ball up and be so excited. But I just stood there confused. I froze.

“I saw my quarterback put his hands up. I saw everybody running at me. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, I’ve got the ball.’ Michael O’Brien was on the ground, got from underneath two people and I never saw him sprint so fast at me.”

 

The last person she reached on the field was Hilgert.

“Everybody was bombarding me and Tyler was waiting his turn,” Seixas said. “I pushed my way through and we had this really sentimental moment where it was me and him hugging. Yes, the coaches called and made the play, but if you see the film he only had his eyes on me and he really wanted me to get it. It was a really good moment.”

Ashley McKenna of Ledyard is known to have caught a 5-yard touchdown pass in 2003. Veronica Roman of Wilcox Tech is known to have run for a 6-yard TD in 2007. There have been a number of female kickers, but only a few girls have scored touchdowns in Connecticut high school history.

Seixas called it a longtime goal. Salvati has wanted to get her in the end zone for a couple years so she’d become the first girl in school history.

Not because it’s a novelty.

Because she works as hard as anyone he has on the team. Seixas has stuck it out all four years. At 5-4, 150 pounds, she plays on the kick return team.

“When I met Brianna for the first time in the eighth grade coming into high school, she said, ‘I do not want to be a kicker,’” Salvati said. “I want to be a football player. I want to be treated like a football player.

“She has lived up to that. She comes out every day, does everything everyone else does on the team. She doesn’t shy away from anything. She doesn’t ask for exemptions.”

Guilford had a 28-0 lead at halftime. The opportunity en route to a 44-7 victory arose.

“This is a dedicated kid,” Salvati said. “Whether it male or female, it’s about respect and gaining the trust of your teammates. This definitely isn’t a novelty story. This is something she has earned and deserved. Everyone was so excited because they all know she puts the work in. This is a family. She is part of it.”

Mom wasn’t at the game. Ashleigh Fritz, a Navy corpsman, is deployed in Germany. Her grandmother Veronica Fritz was.

“At the end of the game, she came up to me and I told her I scored,” Seixas said. “She was freaking out. She didn’t believe me. She went and she asked my teammates.”

Yes, Veronica, it’s true.

Seixas started playing football when she was nine. She was a cheerleader before that. Close to the sidelines, the game fascinated her. She decided to give it a try.

“It was kind of ‘just because,’ but then when I got older I realized it was a bigger deal,” she said. “The bigger figures in my life didn’t really want me playing. They didn’t want me to get hurt. I wanted to get stronger mentally and physically.

“Like coach says, you never know when you’ll be called on in a situation in a game. There could be an injury. Someone might need a breather. But even if I didn’t get to play, the joy of practicing with my friends for seven-plus years and the joy to get that conditioning and work in and understanding a sport I’m not going to play in college … there are life lessons.”

If she sounds like a mature, multi-sport athlete, that’s because she is. Maybe this is a good time to tell you she is a wrestling state champion.

“Brianna is a great athlete all-around,” Salvati said. “She plays football, wrestles against boys and girls and plays girls lacrosse. She is not afraid of contact. She is not afraid of competition. She embraces it.”

Proof?

Seixas won the 170-pound CIAC girls championship last February weighing 150 pounds. She had decided not to wrestle in the 152-pound class. There is no 160 class. The day of weigh-in she got sick. She was heart-broken over the loss of her great-grandfather. She ended up weighing 20 fewer pounds than her opponent in the final.

She won, 11-9.

Obviously, her record against the boys isn’t what it would be if she was wrestling 105 or 112. At her weight she is going against the peak classes of teenage boys.

She wrestles with South Side Wrestling Club of Bridgeport, where many of the state’s top young wrestlers compete in national tournaments. Seixas wanted to go to the Naval Academy, but there is no wrestling program at Annapolis. She is looking at wrestling at Western New England or Sacred Heart.

Each Tuesday and Thursday she’ll drive from Guilford to Bridgeport after football practice and wrestle for a couple of hours.

“I don’t know how she has the energy to do it,” Salvati said.

This is a kid who also played the violin for a time and still shows cows. I’ll stop short of a Noah’s Ark comparison.

“Two has always been my number,” she said. “Everything comes in two for me. That touchdown was the second catch of my football. It was my second play I was in.”

Two days after Seixas finished fourth in the girls state tournament her freshman year, her grandfather Matthew Middleton died at age 58. He was a track star at Guilford before going into the Coast Guard. He loved seeing Brianna compete in sports.

And then two days before she won the state title as a junior, her great-grandfather Ted Fritz died at age 79.

“That really took a toll,” Seixas said. “He really wanted me to win. My mom was gone. I handled it. I drove to the hospital, was there until 1 in the morning. I had school and practice that day. I decided I’m going to go home and try to push through. I came to school crying. I came to practice crying.”

Brianna Seixas, with a heart too heavy and a body too light, went out and won a state championship.

“Nobody cried after they won states,” Seixas said. “Not the boys or the girls. I was the only one who came off sobbing. Everyone was confused. They didn’t know. I didn’t really want them to know.”

Seixas remembers later going through Ted’s things with her family. A U.S. Marine, he loved to fish and clam and boat.

“While we were looking through his stuff, we came across this quote, it was his quote,” she said. “I got it tattooed on my forearm. I look at it for motivation.”

Seixas holds up her arm. There in script it reads, “I choose I have the power I can do it.”

These are not the words of a novelty act.

These are the words of a deserving athlete.

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123