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Two girls at Thomas Edison are tackling high school football — and winning

Barbara Dussinger and Anaishka Torres are both first-year players for the Thomas Edison football team, which won its first game since 2015 last week.

Thomas Edison HS # 72 defensive tackle Barbara Dussinger and # 30 Anaishka Torres walk into the girls locker room to change after Edison's game, at home, against Samuel Fels H.S. on October 12, 2018. Edison won the game 12-6.
Thomas Edison HS # 72 defensive tackle Barbara Dussinger and # 30 Anaishka Torres walk into the girls locker room to change after Edison's game, at home, against Samuel Fels H.S. on October 12, 2018. Edison won the game 12-6.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

Barbara Dussinger did some good-natured trash talking after battling Eduardo Lebron along the line of scrimmage at a recent practice.

"I thought you had me," she said to the offensive guard. "You didn't have me. I slid right by you."

Dussinger, one of two girls playing football this season for Thomas Edison High School, is a starter for the Owls, and she made a significant impact in last Friday's 12-6 victory over Samuel Fels, a rival in the Public League American Division.

A 5-foot-11 junior defensive tackle, Dussinger is able to use her size to shut down running lanes and free up her teammates to make plays.

"I'm pretty good at clogging the middle," Dussinger, 16, said with a laugh.

Against Fels, Dussinger was a star.

"She had at least three tackles for a loss, three for no gain and assisted on a couple of others," Edison head coach Bill Hughes said.

Playing behind Dussinger on some plays is 5-4 senior Anaishka "Nani" Torres, a special teams starter and backup cornerback and outside linebacker. She was a team manager, fetching water for the players, before deciding to suit up for the second game this season.

"It was really tough at first trying to get adjusted to the tackling and everything else," the 17-year old said. "But I became more and more comfortable with each practice."

Dussinger said she considered playing football a few years ago while watching her brother, James Arthur Bond III, play for Frankford. He was a 6-2, 300-pound two-way lineman for the Pioneers.

"I played volleyball last fall and this year figured I'd finally give football a shot," Dussinger said. "Before, I was afraid about getting hurt and then not being able to play basketball."

Dussinger's mother, Danielle, is a regular at the Edison games.

"She's very supportive and encouraging," said Dussinger, who lives near L Street and Hunting Park Avenue. "She's my No. 1 fan in every sport I play."

Dussinger, a forward in basketball and third baseman in softball, has held her own against the boys in the trenches.

"She'll push guys back,"  said junior running back and free safety Rahmir Thomas. "Even though players on other teams doubt her, she goes out there and does her thing."

Dussinger said she brushes aside any negative chirping she hears from opposing players and spectators.

"It makes me strive to do better and prove them wrong," she said.

Torres, who lives near Kensington and Allegheny Avenues, has seen limited playing time after getting the wind knocked out of her in a Sept. 14 loss to Kensington.

"Coach Hughes worries about me getting hurt, so I understand," she said.

Torres, who also plays basketball and softball, is a mother to 1-year-old son Eliezer Martinez. Her mother, Rosangela, pitches in as a babysitter so Torres can keep up her athletic pursuits.

"Time-wise, it makes things more difficult. But everything I do, I do it for my son," Torres said.

Edison defensive coordinator Bart Masciulli said both girls are hard workers and never ask or require special treatment. "I can always count on them to be at practice," he said.

Hughes said Dussinger has had no trouble fitting in with the boys. "Some of them tried to talk her into playing last year," he said.

"We look at them as teammates, not girls," Thomas said. "On the field, we treat them like we would any other player. It's not a big deal."

Edison's win over Fels marked the program's first on-the-field triumph since 2015, and the players celebrated by dumping water on Hughes and Masciulli. The Owls were awarded a forfeit victory over Strawberry Mansion the previous week.

After Friday's victory, Hughes huddled with his players.

"I said to them, 'Let's make this the norm. Once you guys buy into the system and apply the things we teach you in practice, this is what can happen.' "

Hughes is a logistics and warehouse management teacher at Edison, which is near Front and Luzerne Streets in Hunting Park and offers career and technical education programs. A West Catholic High School graduate, Hughes is also the school's softball coach.

"I couldn't care less about my win-loss record," the 47-year-old said. "I want to build character in the kids and have them learn lessons that will help them in life."

Torres seems to have learned about perseverance. "With football, it's about finishing what I started," she said. "That's one of the things our coaches preach to us."