SAN ANTONIO – From an early age, Losoya Middle School eighth-grader Persaihas Ortiz knew she wanted to play football.
“I fell in love with it when I started playing,” said Ortiz. “It was something that came to me.”
When Ortiz steps on the field, her competitive spirit shines. Her coaches say she’s one of Losoya’s best players.
“She might be a girl, but she could really hit hard,” said coach Joel Sanchez.
Ortiz said it’s still a surprise to some people that she competes at this level.
“They ask, ‘really, you play tackle football? and I’m like, yes,’” said Ortiz. “They don’t think I’m actually telling the truth.”
Ortiz can play on offense and defense. She’s also one of Losoya’s quarterbacks.
“Last year when I saw her as a seventh-grade football player, I was amazed of her ability, what she was able to do on the football field,” said Sanchez.
Cheering her along the way for years was her biggest fan and supporter, her mother Adriana Ortiz. But it did not come without some hesitancy from her mother.
“She was scared for me at first and wasn’t too sure if I was going to be able to make it because of how big the boys were compared to me,” said Ortiz. “She was really nervous and when I made my first touchdown, to see her reaction was everything.”
However, tragedy struck Persaihas and her family before the season. Her mother was not vaccinated and passed away because of complications with COVID, her family said.
“My mom was everything to me. She was there even in the unexpected,” said Ortiz. “She was there for me for almost every game I had.”
Her coaches, teammates, friends and the Southside community rallied around Ortiz after they heard of her mom’s passing. They were not sure she would return to the team, but she showed up to practice when she was ready to return, like she’s always done before.
“For a young girl like her to go through something like that at this young age, it’s very sad and the whole community has embraced her. The team has embraced her,” said Sanchez. “The priority was how she’s doing, coping with everything. I knew her mom, she was very passionate about the game. I had a feeling this was going to be a way for her to kind of remember her mom.”
“It’s something that helps me get my feelings out. It’s amazing to have people like them, my team be there for me,” said Ortiz.
With her teammates and coaches supporting her on the field, Ortiz is still getting love and support from her family and friends cheering her in the stands.
“It’s very hard for her, but we pray every night and I tell her things are going to be fine because I’m here, her uncle’s here, her brother’s here, her padrinos are here and her other grandparents are here to help her,” said Virginia Ortiz, Persaihas’ grandmother.
Ortiz loves to draw, but also wants to continue to play football when she becomes a freshman at Southside High School, with her mom as her inspiration to keep playing the game she loves.
“I know even though she’s gone, she still would have wanted to have me play,” said Ortiz.