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Bikini football blitzes the Northwest
The first time Maureen Francisco told her parents that she joined a football team, they asked if she was the mascot.
Try center. The former high-school cheerleader, standing all of 5-foot 1 and 92 pounds, plays for the Boise Wildfire of The World Bikini Football League (TWBFL).
Francisco, who lives in Bellevue, insists size doesn't matter at her position.
"All I have to do is punt the ball back," she said.
So Francisco mixes football jargon and she's a bit small in stature. That doesn't stop her from having success on the field.
"I'm one of those secret weapons," she said, noting that she scored a touchdown in her last game, a co-ed event with soldiers at Fort Lewis.
TWBFL is a flag football organization, but there's no lack of rough stuff during competitions. The players describe their sport as a mix of beauty and fierce competition.
Francisco suffered a concussion in a recent game after getting run over by an opposing ball carrier.
"Someone basically tackled me as opposed to going around me," she said. "People get competitive and they'll do whatever it takes to win. The emotions really come out."
Bikini football players may get rough with each other in games, but they cooperate when it comes to promoting their league.
"On the field and off the field, there are two different things going on," said Portland Tsunami wide receiver Theresa Guerra. "Off the field, everyone supports one thing – getting this league to fly."
TWBFL works by attracting subscribers to its web site. Members get access to photos, blogs, interviews, game videos, behind-the-scenes footage, and the opportunity to mix it up with players at special events.
The league's first regular-season games for the 2009 season took place Aug. 23 at Civic Stadium in Bellingham.
TWBFL players come from a variety of backgrounds, with most using the league for publicity.
Both now live in Southern California, where they're starting a new division for TWBFL. They've already held tryouts for one team in San Diego, and have plans for building another in Los Angeles.
Francisco has dabbled in a variety of professions, most of which put her in front of the camera.
She worked for years as a broadcast news reporter, appeared on the FOX-TV reality show "Solitary 3.0," became the first contestant on the CBS game show "Power of 10," and acted alongside Goad in the independent film "Eyes in the Dark."
Now she's working on a memoir titled "Full Circle," due to come out in September.
"I'm all about new experiences," she said. "Life is all about layers and doing new things."
TWBFL players are generally between 18 and 45 years old, according to Francisco, but there is no age limit.
Seattle Emeralds quarterback Yulian Hancheroff is a 32-year-old gymnastics coach who runs Metropolitan Gymnastics in Kent. She says bikini football gave her an opportunity to be active again in sports after years of instructing.
"I've always been athletic, but as you get older, the only thing to do is coach," she said. "This has made me feel young again."