Meet Katie Lindsay, who could become the first Iowa girl to score points in a high school state championship

Cody Goodwin
Des Moines Register

VAN METER — Practice is about to wrap up on a chilly November evening at Van Meter High School. The Bulldogs are just a few days away from the Class 1A state championship game, set for Thursday at 4 p.m. at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls.

“P-A-T! P-A-T!” Van Meter coach Eric Trudo yells, and suddenly, his team finds a second wind and starts cheering for the kicker.

“Let’s go Katie!” one player shouts.

“You got this Katie, you got this!” another player screams.

Van Meter’s extra-point team lines up for a single point-after try. Katie Lindsay, the team’s sophomore kicker, lines up behind quarterback Jack Pettit. The snap is crisp, the hold good, the kick easy. The ball splits the uprights.

“Too easy!” a third Van Meter player yells.

Lindsay is the rare girl who plays high school football in Iowa. Last season, only 55 girls participated statewide, according to the Iowa High School Athletic Association. Of them, 43 played on 11-player teams and 12 played on 8-Player teams.

But even more than that, she is the even rarer girl who regularly contributes to her team’s overall success.

Lindsay is virtually automatic from 20 yards out. She is 71-of-74 on point-after tries this year. Her 71 made extra points are the second-most in the state this season, trailing only Harlan’s Stephen Leinen (76-of-84). It’s also a Van Meter school record, and will earn her a line in the IHSAA record books, too.

In Van Meter’s 28-7 state semifinal win over Dyersville Beckman last week, she hit all four extra points. She is believed to be the first Iowa girl to score points in a state football semifinal, per the IHSAA.

Assuming the Bulldogs score Thursday — odds are good, since they average 46.3 points per game — Lindsay could become the first Iowa girl to score points in a state final, too.

Pretty cool, right?

“It’s really cool to be a part of,” Lindsay said. “I’m really excited. I think everybody is excited. We’re ready to win.”

Van Meter kicker Katie Lindsay smiles after making the extra point during a Class 1A state football semifinal against Dyersville Beckman on Nov. 12 in Cedar Falls.

A history of Iowa girls playing football

The history of Iowa girls shining on the gridiron is small, but it does exist.

In 1988, Stuart-Menlo's Vicky DeHaan caught a pass on a two-point conversion play to become the first-known Iowa girl to score points in a high school football game. A few followed her lead, like Murray’s Amanda Keller, Dallas Center-Grimes’ Lorna Torrez, Denver’s Jackie Gielau and Benton’s Silje Laland.

There are more. Angie Lantz suited up for Schleswig as a freshman during the Class A state football championship game in 1988. Lantz did not play, but Schleswig beat Preston, 10-7 in overtime, for the title that year. Vanessa Chapman was on Pella’s roster when the Little Dutch won back-to-back Class 3A state titles in 2014 and 2015.

Nationally, girls playing football is still uncommon but interest is steadily growing. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, 2,404 girls played 11-player football in 2019. That’s nearly twice as many as there were in 2009 (1,249).

Girls playing football and regularly contributing like Lindsay does is still very uncommon, but it does happen. Last year, Vanderbilt turned to Sarah Fuller, the Commodores’ women's soccer goalie, as an option at kicker. She became the first woman to play and score in a Power 5 football game.

So Lindsay isn’t exactly a true trailblazer here, and surely there will be more girls who come after her. If she’s being honest, she hasn’t really thought much about the history she made last week or could make this week.

She’s just excited to play.

“A couple of girls have come up to me at school and have been like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s Katie Lindsay!’” Lindsay said. “Everyone has just been super sweet.

“It’s been awesome to be part of this great program and get to contribute. It’s what I love doing and it’s worked out awesome.”

Van Meter's Katie Lindsay kicks the extra point during a Class 1A state football semifinal against Dyersville Beckman on Nov. 12 in Cedar Falls.

‘It’s been nice and easy’

Lindsay did not play football her freshman year. She instead starred on the soccer field, starting all 19 games for a Van Meter team that went 13-6 and reached the Region 5 title game in Class 1A. She scored two goals and recorded five assists.

A few of her teachers watched her play and were impressed enough to suggest maybe looking into football, perhaps because Van Meter’s kicking situation was a little more inconsistent in 2020 (two kickers combined to go 47-of-57 on extra points).

“(My teachers) saw me play soccer, and they kind of joked, ‘Are we going to see you play football next year?’” Lindsay said. “Well, then I showed up to the meeting. I had never kicked a football before, so I went to a few camps. Then I showed up to the team camp, showed up to practice, and now I’m part of the team.”

Trudo welcomed her to the program but made it clear that she’d have to earn the starting kicker spot. She was named the starting place-kicker just a couple weeks before Week 1 (senior Caden Trost has handled majority of the kickoffs).

“He posts these sheets that says where everyone is, and it said I was the first kicker,” Lindsay said. “I texted my mom right away. I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m on varsity, I’m actually going to do this.’”

Consistency has been Lindsay’s greatest attribute this season. In Van Meter’s 42-0 Week 1 win over Earlham, she hit all 6 point-after attempts … then all 10 in Week 5 against West Central Valley … then 11 against Pleasantville in the first round of the playoffs, tying a state record for the second-most ever made in a single game.

“My first one was definitely when I was most nervous,” Lindsay said. “But (Van Meter quarterback and holder Jack Pettit) was like, ‘Hey, you’ve got this. Nice and easy’ and it went through.

“Ever since then, it’s been nice and easy.”

Van Meter kicker Katie Lindsay smiles after making the extra point during a Class 1A state football semifinal against Dyersville Beckman on Nov. 12 in Cedar Falls.

She even made a 27-yard field goal against ACGC in the state quarterfinals. Van Meter led 14-13 at half, and the Bulldogs’ opening drive of the third quarter stalled in the red zone. Trudo called on Lindsay to attempt a field goal, something she hadn’t done all year. She blasted the ball through the uprights, and Van Meter won, 31-13.

“She nailed it like it was nothing,” Trudo recalled. “Her mental makeup is absolutely impressive.”

Entering Thursday’s game, Lindsay has made 25 point-after attempts in a row, her last miss coming against ACGC in Week 8. Trudo is quick to mention that two of her three misses this year aren’t even her fault — the offensive line missed an assignment on one, and a bad snap caused the other.

Van Meter, of all teams, knows the importance of the extra point. In last year’s title game, OABCIG’s Cooper DeJean blocked an extra point that kept the game within one possession late in the fourth quarter, and the Falcons ultimately prevailed, 33-26.

Much like OABCIG did last year, West Sioux presents all kinds of challenges in Thursday's state final, but as long as the Bulldog offense moves the ball like it has all year — behind Pettit and Dalten Van Pelt, who have combined for 3,728 total yards and 57 touchdowns this season — Lindsay will get an opportunity to do what she does best.

“It’s been really fun,” she said. “At first, it didn’t seem real, but now, this is my job, and if it wasn’t for everybody else scoring all the touchdowns, I wouldn’t be doing half of what I’m doing this year. It’s been really cool.”

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.