Homecoming queen swaps tiara for her football helmet, kicks winning point before frenzied crowd
After a Mississippi high school football team tied the game in overtime on Friday, Kaylee Foster knew her team was going to win. Earlier in the night, Foster was named homecoming queen, an unexpected honor for the senior at Ocean Springs High School in Ocean Springs, Mississippi. She posed for photos with her flowers and crown, grinning from ear to ear on the football field, with her family and friends looking on from the stands at Greyhound Stadium.
But Foster was a different kind of homecoming queen.
Once the announcements were made and photos were snapped, she proceeded to the football locker room. She had to go swap her tiara for the only Friday headwear she's known for the last three years as part of the varsity team: a football helmet.
It turned out to be a busy night for Foster, whose two field goals from 20 and 30 yards out accounted for all the Greyhounds' scoring during regulation play, according to the Mississippi Press.
When the George County High School Rebels scored a touchdown but failed to convert the extra point in the first possession of overtime, the Greyhounds found themselves down six with the ball. In the next possession, Ocean Springs finally found pay dirt on a 29-yard pass, its first touchdown of the night. The game was tied at 12, with the Greyhounds needing an extra point to seal the win.
Now, with her team on the brink of victory against George County, Foster's number 15 was called. She was confident as she grabbed her helmet and stepped out onto the field one more time. The time had come for the homecoming queen of Ocean Springs, otherwise known as the team's ace kicker, to take her throne.
"Jak King, the holder, he like looks at me and [said] like, 'it's OK, Kaylee. Just kick it like you always do. It's OK,'" said Foster, according to WLOX.
The snap was good and the hold was tight. And the kick? Well, it split the uprights without drama, clinching a 13-12 win and sending her teammates and home fans into a frenzy.
Did that just happen? Did the homecoming queen just win the game?
"And the next thing I know, everyone is like right there," she recalled of her teammates mobbing her on the field. "Just a nice group hug."
As Foster successfully kicked the game-winning extra point, she had done what perhaps no other high school football player had accomplished, maybe ever: hit the game-winning kick on the same night she was crowned homecoming queen.
"I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be homecoming queen, but I was pretty sure I was going to make that kick," she said, according to the Press.
Head coach Ryan Ross acknowledged the uniqueness of what unfolded in the win, according to the Press, wondering aloud if what had happened in Jackson County was a first.
"I'd like to check the whole country and see if it's ever happened before," Ross said of Foster winning the game on the night she was named homecoming queen, according to the Press. "It certainly makes for a memorable weekend for the whole team, but especially Kaylee. It's a big night for her. I'm proud of her and I'm proud of the team."
The high school lists an enrollment of about 1,700 students.
Afterward, with her teammates and coaches celebrating with her, Foster was overwhelmed and speechless. She later posed in her uniform with her tiara and a bouquet of flowers. Foster said she also got wind of a 9-year-old girl heard saying that the kicker is "the kind of girl I want to be," according to the Press.
"I really don't have any words," she said after the game, with her tiara replacing her helmet. "This has just been so wonderful. I love football and I love Ocean Springs."
Known primarily as a soccer player who also runs track, Foster has been playing organized football for six years, according to WLOX. The Associated Press reported that Friday's honor marked the fourth year she was a member of the school's homecoming court.
The kicker-turned-homecoming queen said that she's always felt welcome on the team, telling WLOX that her teammates are "a bunch of brothers." When Foster first brought up the idea of playing football, her parents did not discourage her.
"I was like, I really didn't have the heart to tell her no, so I said, 'Go ask your dad,'" Rendy Foster, her mother, told WLOX. "And he was like, 'Yeah, you know, that sounds like a pretty good idea.' And he signed the permission slip and never gave it a second thought."
The national attention to come out of a muggy Friday night in Ocean Springs has not gone to Foster's head. The next day, she told WLOX she had to take the ACT and turned off her phone. When that was over, it was time for the homecoming dance that same night.
"I was like, I'm not going to think about anything, just think about the test," she told WLOX, "and then once it's over, I can think about tonight and last night and how much fun I'm going to have."
This article was written by Timothy Bella, a reporter for The Washington Post.