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He cheers, she tackles, both celebrate passions at Farmingdale homecoming

Farmingdale High School students Abigail Faber and Michael

Farmingdale High School students Abigail Faber and Michael Haggerty hang out at their school's homecoming festivities on Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017. Credit: Rachel Weiss

If you’re lucky enough to catch a JV football game this season at Farmingdale High School, you’ll find two girls in helmets and a boy assisting with highflying stunts on the sidelines.

Michael Haggerty, 15, is the sole male student on the junior varsity cheerleading team. The sophomore has been a part of the team since last winter. He first got inspired to try out while scrolling through some videos online.

“It’s so much fun watching it,” he said. “The adrenaline, doing the stunts — I loved watching on YouTube, so it’s something I really wanted to try out.”

During the homecoming pep rally on Thursday, Haggerty didn’t miss a beat. He helped boost the girls into lifts, then jumped, chanted and danced along to a fast-paced routine.

At the other end of the gymnasium, freshman Abigail Faber, 14, watched the festivities with her own team. For the second year in a row, she's a backup receiver and cornerback on the junior varsity football team.

“The first day I was trying out, everyone was like, ‘Wait, you’re trying out? Really? That doesn’t sound right,’” she recalled. “I was like, first off, it does to me. It’s been my dream to play football since I was 6. But since I was doing karate, my mom was like, ‘You have to finish that before you do something else.’”

With a little shrug, Faber added, “So I got my black belt.” She accomplished that as a seventh grader. Faber continued to push herself, knowing she had a lot to prove to her male peers.

“I have to be able to be twice as strong and do so much more because I’m a girl,” she said.

Haggerty can attest to that, in a different way. He said that performing at the pep rally was “nerve-wracking.”

“I feel like I’m being watched the most just because, you know,” he said.

Faber was the only girl on her football team last year, but this year she was joined by ninth grader Olivia Farquharson. The Farmingdale wrestling team has a female member, as well, senior Alison Solis.

In addition to their respective sports, Faber and Haggerty are both performing in their school’s musical production of “Into the Woods.” Haggerty will dance and sing in the ensemble, and Faber will play the double bass in the orchestra pit.

Haggerty said he’s always been passionate about performing, whether it’s cheering at a game or acting on stage.

“It’s really nice to have the best of both worlds,” Haggerty said.

Faber is looking forward to the upcoming football season. The team won its first game, and she already sees herself improving from last year.

“My first game was the worst,” she remembered. “I was so nervous. This year, I’m doing so much better. I finally made my first actual tackle during a game, throwing someone on the [ground]. And after doing that, I understand why the guys are so excited. It’s amazing; it’s the best feeling.”

Junior varsity football head coach Frank Tassielli said that in his seven years of leading the team, Faber was only the second girl he worked with before Farquharson became the third. He believes that the boys took it easy on Faber at first during training — until she hit them right back.

“She just fits right in,” Tassielli said. “As soon as the season officially started in the middle of August, she strapped on the gear like everybody else, and the only thing we noticed was a little long hair sticking out of the helmet.”

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