Riverside-Brookfield’s Niamh Larson (16) coverts an extra point against Morton on Aug. 25, in Brookfield. | Steve Johnston
RBHS Kicker Niamh Larson listens to coaches after scrimmage on Aug. 18. | Ian McLeod

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Niamh Larson already has enjoyed success as a varsity girls’ soccer and basketball starter.

Yet her greatest victory may have happened last month. 

She finally convinced herself to try out for the varsity football team.

“I’ve been interested in playing football my whole life and ever since freshman year I thought that if I were able to play, I’d be the kicker,” Larson said.

She and 2021 graduate Lauren Aprim are believed to be the only female football players in RBHS history. 

But Larson is first to play varsity, much less be a starter.

“Any time I would see any social media of girls playing football, I would be so proud of them and know that’s something I always wanted to do,” Larson said. “Every year, I would get nervous and never try out. It was senior year and I knew that if I didn’t do it, I’d probably regret it the rest of my life. I talked to some of my buddies on the team and they thought it was a good idea so I went and tried out.” 

Now Larson is the starting placekicker for the Bulldogs, who moved to 3-0 with Friday’s 41-0 victory over Bloom Trail. They visit state-ranked Kankakee (3-0) Friday for the early lead in the Southland Conference.

Niamh Larson

Larson has converted 16 of 17 extra points and eagerly awaits her first field-goal attempt and possibly kickoffs. Her only miss came Friday after she initially was successful, but had to kick again following a defensive penalty.

 “Now that I’m actually in those shoes, I want girls to understand they’re capable of doing anything, no matter the sport, playing with guys or any female athletes out there. There’s nothing that can stop them and they should just go for what they want to do.” 

While comfortable with kicking, Larson struggled to take the first step. She often kicked casually with friends, saying that she could “totally do this.” Attempting a new sport on a team with all boys was another thing.

Good friends, such as senior wide receiver Tohma Tucker, were encouraging and persuasive. Now Tucker is the long snapper for Larson’s extra points. Standout senior quarterback Diego Gutierrez is the holder.

“She’s definitely met the expectations. She’s going crazy. That’s all I’ve got to say, doing what she’s got to do and helping the team out a lot,” Tucker said.

“Actually last year, she was talking about wanting to be the kicker. She was kind of scared. She didn’t think she’d fit in. It took a lot of convincing but she had a lot of guts to say yes and do it. She has such a big role and such an impact on so many young players and younger girls who want to play the sport like her.” 

Larson contacted RBHS head coach Sam Styler Aug. 6, the day before the official start of practice. Styler was the head sophomore coach when Aprim played line for the freshman and his sophomore team.

Styler said other players told him first about Larson’s intentions. Styler said he gladly received the email from Larson. 

“We’re extremely proud of her and extremely lucky to have her,” Styler said. “We asked her to come on out. It all kind of happened pretty quick, but it was exciting.” 

After some team walk-throughs during that first practice, Larson’s make-or-break moment came.

She was asked to kick extra points. 


Then came seven or eight field-goal attempts, going as far back as roughly 40 yards.

Perfect again.

“Pretty much from that point on, we knew that we found our kicker,” Styler said.

“I know she was nervous because it was in front of the whole football team. I told her, ‘If you’re going to do this, this is the pressure you’re going to feel,’ ” Tucker said. “It made me feel really good and I know she felt really good about it, too. She just nailed it.” 

The experiences already have been worth the effort. Larson said she’s especially experienced big-game excitement playing soccer with the RBFC Soccer Club and the Bulldogs, earning All-Metro Suburban Conference honors this past spring.

Football is different.

“I know a lot of football guys know how this feels. Nothing really compares to being down on the football field Friday night because the crowd and just the number of people there and the noise,” Larson said. 

“I just haven’t been able to experience that as a girl and female athlete, playing soccer and basketball where we get not barely 30 people at each game. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to be able to experience in my life, having a full crowd, the excitement for everything and just the chills and adrenaline you get.” 

Larson changes for home games and practices with a locker in the auto shop building on the other side of the RBHS stadium from the football team’s locker room. Friday’s road opener will be the first to see how opposing schools accommodate her.

Tucker said Larson quickly has jelled with teammates through her attitude and energy. Larson said she appreciates her teammates’ friendship and acceptance and “treating me not like I’m any different from them and I’m just playing a sport with them.” 

“She’s amazing. The work ethic she’s been putting in, you can tell instantly the guys understood how seriously she’s taking this and how competitive she is with everything she does,” Styler said. 

“It’s hard to find high school kids with that amount of determination, coming out for the first time. She does everything we’ve asked and more. I know the guys are super excited to have her on the team.”