MILFORD — If her mom had not signed her up for a football camp several years ago, Maddy Lucontoni probably would not have much interest in the sport today. She certainly would not be about to make history on Saturday as the first girl to participate in the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock East-West All-Star Game.
Lucontoni will be one of seven players representing Bedford High School on Team West in the senior all-star football game Saturday at 6 p.m. at the University of New Hampshire’s Wildcat Stadium. Proceeds from the exhibition, which the New Hampshire Union Leader sponsors, benefit CHaD.
Lucontoni has played soccer since she was 3 years old and wore a soccer shirt to the football camp she said her mom “kind of forced” her to attend. When players split up into position groups, Lucontoni was unsure where to go. She did not know how to play any position or the rules of the game.
“And then one guy was like, ‘Hey, why don’t you go in the kickers spot because there’s nobody there and you have a soccer shirt so you have some experience kicking,’” Lucontoni said before Team West’s practice Tuesday at the Hampshire Dome. “And I did and I just started kicking field goals. I was like, ‘Wow, this is neat. I actually like this.’”
That camp helped give Lucontoni the confidence to try out as a kicker for the Bedford High School football team her freshman year. As the only girl in the program, Lucontoni, who also played hockey and softball at Bedford, initially felt outside of the group.
“I did have to integrate a little bit,” Lucontoni said. “But as the years went by, I felt part of the team. I was like a sister to all these brothers.”
Ryan Toscano, who will also represent Bedford on Team West Saturday, played with Lucontoni for four years. The former Bulldogs running back/linebacker remembers Lucononti impressed the team with her kicking ability right away.
“Even freshman year, she was making every extra point, making every field goal she had,” Toscano said. “And then sophomore and junior year, she got the opportunity to sit behind two of our older kickers and that gave her a lot more practice playing JV (junior varsity) and this year she just topped it off with a great year.”
While Toscano and the rest of the Bulldogs executed different drills with the offense, defense or special teams units during the team’s three-hour practices, Lucontoni had one task: kick.
Aside from working with the kickoff unit and brief interactions with coaches, Lucontoni spent Team West’s two-and-a-half-hour practice Tuesday on her own kicking into a net.
“She always showed up to practice even though she had to kick like pretty much three hours straight,” said former Bedford quarterback/defensive back Thomas Morgan, who will also play for Team West on Saturday. “Honestly, from an outside perspective, kicking for three hours every day for four or five days a week, I’m sure was mentally challenging. And just understanding that, it brought a sense of respect that I have for her.”
Lucontoni’s countless hours practicing through the years paid off her senior season this past fall, when she earned a spot on the varsity team for the first time in her career as its starting kicker.
“It was awesome,” Lucontoni said. “I knew I couldn’t lay back, though. I knew I had to keep pushing myself. It was my spot but I just need to keep working hard, pushing myself more and more each day. But it was amazing just knowing I worked that hard and I actually got that spot that I wanted.”
Lucontoni began her varsity career with a game-winning field goal in Bedford’s 24-21 victory over Salem in the Queen City Football Jamboree on Aug. 24. With 35 seconds remaining in the exhibition, she drilled the game-winner from 40 yards out.
Lucontoni saw improvements in her accuracy and power last season, which resulted in her recording 85 points, an 89 percent success rate on field goals and a 91 percent success rate on extra points. The Bulldogs went undefeated and won the NHIAA Division I championship last fall. Lucontoni, who will continue her hockey career at Assumption College, earned All-Division I North First Team honors after the season.
Both Toscano and Morgan said knowing Lucontoni would likely make any field goal or extra-point attempt helped Bedford’s offense remain composed and confident throughout the season.
Before Lucontoni retires her cleats in favor of hockey skates, she is excited to play in a game that benefits CHaD. Her friend, Avery Forrestall, is a two-time cancer survivor and has been a CHaD champion and speaker for many years. The two met in daycare at a young age but lost touch for awhile after Lucontoni’s family moved from Goffstown to Bedford. The two reconnected when Forrestall was receiving treatment from CHaD.
Lucontoni said Forrestall will be at the CHaD game Saturday after his wrestling match and she dedicated her fundraising efforts to him. As of Tuesday, Lucontoni had raised more than $3,000 for CHaD and was among the top five fundraisers for this year’s game.
“Even when I was younger, I remember I wanted Avery to come to my sixth birthday party and he was really sick,” Lucontoni said. “And that year I decided, instead of gifts, have the people give money to an Avery fund. And I think it’s just so much more — this football game. It means so much since I know someone and it’s just for the kids and I’m just honored to be in this position right now.”