Football: Lyons’ Karsel, Jefferson Academy’s Thimsen get their kicks on the gridiron

Pair of local seniors key pieces for Lyons, Jeffco’s Pomona

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer
Lyons High School senior Alexa Karsel, left, and Jefferson Academy senior Lily Thimsen pose for a portrait on Tuesday in Boulder.

Longtime Pomona football coach Jay Madden said the decision to roster female kickers has been an absolute no-brainer.

It’s not a move based on societal progress, he explained after both Jefferson Academy student Lily Thimsen and former JA grad Alyson Thimsen led his kicking teams.

Only talent.

“They’re not kicking because we like them,” he said. “I mean, we also like them. But they’re kicking because they’re the best kickers we got.”

Lily Thimsen and Lyons kicker Alexa Karsel are two known high school females from the area leading special teams units this fall.

And while both players are better known for their soccer skills around town — with Thimsen an all-state player in 3A with the Jaguars and Karsel the 4A Northern League’s player of the year on Silver Creek — their contributions on the gridiron may help add into an important narrative about females in football.

Here’s how it currently stands: In the National Football League, there has never been a woman head coach or general manager.
Recently, though, women have broken in as coaches. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in fact, became the first NFL team to hire two full-time female coaches.

And elsewhere, Antoinette Harris became the first women’s football player to receive a college scholarship to play a skills position this past year (and was the focus of a Toyota commercial during the Super Bowl). And before her, several women have kicked for major college programs, including Katie Hnida at Colorado and New Mexico.

Thimsen and Karsel, meanwhile, are part of a limited number of female high school football players in the country (girls make up about 2,000 of the 1,000,000 high school players, according to recent numbers from the National Federation of State High School Associations).

Neither girl, however, has current plans of playing football at the next level. Thimsen is committed to playing soccer at the University of Northern Colorado next year while Karsel said she is planning to play college soccer, too.

A temporary but a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience as Thimsen describes it. Both have embraced these new opportunities.

“With the girls (in soccer), we talk about girls stuff and we get along like best friends,” said Karsel, who joined the team as a freshman, something that transpired from joke with her dad before becoming a reality. “And with the football team they’re more like my brothers. We all look out for each other.”

The Lyons senior said she has had plenty of nice memories to carry with her, including kicking a 42-yard field goal against rival Estes Park in 2016 and making a touchdown-saving tackle on a kickoff on the road against Byers in 2017.

Writer Christoph Ludwig called the tackle “perfect” in a recent 5280 Magazine piece.

Thimsen, meanwhile, said the game has given her a stronger mindset off the field.

“I like having to deal with pressure, and I think it helps me deal with other aspects of my life,” the Jefferson Academy senior said. “Having to work through situations and be mentally tougher. It’s like if I mess up, I mess up. I have to be able to get over that pretty fast.”

In the 17 games listed on MaxPreps, Karsel has made two field goals and 34 of her 39 PATs. Thimsen has made 41 of her 48 PATs in 11 games, per the site. Before her, her sister Alyson scored 112 points over her career and was an all-conference kicker, per Madden.

For other girls looking to get on the gridiron, here’s a tip.

“We can do anything the guys can do,” Karsel said. “It’s really not as scary once you get into it.”

Fab five: Placekickers
Top five local returning placekickers. (2018 scoring)
1. Henry Blackburn, Fairview (77 points)
2. Luke Dunker, Frederick (59 points)
3. John Hoyland, Legacy (56 points)
4. Liam Gray, Holy Family (55 points)
5. Matthew Eich, Broomfield (46 points)

Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – AUG. 21, 2019: Lyons High School senior Alexa Karsel, left, and Jefferson Academy senior Lily Thimsen pose for a portrait on Tuesday in Boulder. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)