Saskatoon Hilltops make CJFL history with first female player

Click to play video 'Saskatoon Hilltop team’s first-ever female athlete' Saskatoon Hilltop team’s first-ever female athlete
WATCH: Emmarae Dale is making history for the Saskatoon Hilltops. The linebacker will be the first female athlete in the team's history.

The first female athlete to make a Canadian Junior Football League (CJFL) roster has joined a dynasty in Saskatchewan.

On Tuesday, the Saskatoon Hilltops added Emmarae Dale as a member of its team.

Read more: CJFL cancels 2020 season due to COVID-19 pandemic

“It’s been in motion since February when I had my first conversation with (Hilltops defensive coordinator) Jeff Yausie and he brought the idea to light and I was shell-shocked, even just knowing that they were even considering having me onboard,” she said.

“I guess it would have been June that it was official that my eligibility was approved and I was able to carry on through to the 2021 season … I just didn’t think it would blow up the way it has. So yeah, it’s been good.”

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Dale joins the Hilltops after a career as a linebacker with the Saskatoon Valkyries, helping the Western Women’s Canadian Football League team win championships in 2016 and 2019.

“I have watched Emmarae grow into a dominant football player with the Saskatoon Valkyries,” Yausie said in the Hilltops’ post on Facebook.

“She has great quickness along with strength and athleticism. We are looking forward to her contributing to our Hilltops defense on the field. She has a great attitude, and no one works harder than her.”

Dale said she feels very welcomed by the Toppers.

“They’ve all been super welcoming. I think they were just a little confused by my being there at first because I don’t think they realized that I was on the team,” she said with a laugh.

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“They have a camaraderie that is like a brotherhood and that’s something I never want to take away from. But they’ve never made me feel uncomfortable by that either and I just kind of feel like I’m one of the team now.

“My mentality has just been that I know that I have to work twice as hard now. I know it’s not going to be just a walk in the park. Nothing is going to be handed to me. I’m not getting any sort of special treatment. I’m just another person on the team. So I’m just trying to double-down and prove that I have earned my spot.”

She is following in the footsteps of her brothers Anthony and Donovan who have graduated from the Hilltops.

“There’s definitely competition amongst our family. I’m the youngest of six, and that’s definitely where my competitive side comes from, is just from playing sports and games with them all my life. And we all hate losing,” Dale said.

“I guess there’s a little bit of like trying to outdo each other but we’re all supportive of each other in the end as well.”

Read more: Saskatoon Hilltops beat Langley Rams, win 6th straight Canadian Bowl

Dale said she doesn’t just have one goal in the CJFL.

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“With football, I just hope that this will at least just trailblaze the way for some other girls and just inspire them to play and just hopefully inspire people, young or old, that they can do anything that they can set their minds to,” Dale said.

“My ultimate goal, right now, I guess just going forward, is just to play football and just to get better as an athlete.”

The 2020 CJFL season was cancelled on Aug. 6 after it determined it wasn’t feasible to operate a regular season or playoffs with the health and safety challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Despite the cancellation, the Hilltops are still currently running optional practices this year while keeping health and safety protocols in mind.

Saskatoon is the current six-time defending champion in the league made up of 18 teams across Western Canada and Ontario.

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Saskatoon Grade 12 student-athletes might have to find new ways to earn athletic scholarships