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SAN DIEGO – Mikenna Melonas has some simple reasons for why she decided to play flag football.

“Mostly my dad,” said the Bonita Vista Middle School eighth-grader. “Watching it when I was little and also, just wanting to be different and not do a girly sport. I like proving people wrong.”

The 14-year-old said her friends told her she couldn’t play football. That’s when, this spring, she decided to try out with 59 other boys.

“I had no idea, I didn’t know the rules,” she said. “I didn’t know anything. I would just practice with my dad. I did not know anything. They would be like, ‘Man, 23, Rambo.” I would be like, ‘what the heck?’ I didn’t even know what D-line is.”

“But also from cheer, I learned how to be a quick learner,” Mikenna said.

When not practicing football three days per week, Mikenna practices with Cheerforce San Diego, an All-Star competitive cheer team that competed last weekend in the World Championships in Orlando, Florida.

And her football coach believes skills from cheer translated to the field.

“This isn’t the first young lady I have coached in football,” said Bonita Vista Middle School coach Jose  Herrero. “They tend to come out with more of a chip on their shoulder. I picked Mikenna because of her leadership skills. Not only did I see it, but my other coaches see it.”

And so did her dad, Kenne Melonas, a former Navy Seal.

“She’s really aggressive,” Kenne said. “She was a black belt in Tae Kwando by the age of nine. She was always into really aggressive-type sports, like football.”

“For flag it’s good, I can practice without being squashed,” says the 14-year-old.

Mikenna hasn’t been squashed while playing on the offensive and defensive lines and says she plans to try out for the high school team in the fall.

Especially after this positive experience

“I really like being around all the boys because they really welcomed me,” she said