PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — They say Saturdays are for the boys, but a women’s tackle football team in the Portland metro area is lighting up the football field with tackles left and right most weekends.

The Oregon Ravens give women the chance to play a game mostly dominated by men. They are suited up in full gear and are expected to take a hit or two on the field while playing against other teams in the Women’s National Football Conference.

“We are starting to collect fans that have no connection to anybody on the team, which is kind of rare or it’s kind of the place that we want to get to in women’s tackle football where we have a fan base that is following us because they like the product that we’re putting out there,” said Leah Hinkle, the general manager of the Oregon Ravens. “They like the atmosphere and our games. They don’t happen to be somebody’s sister, aunt or best friend.”

This season is the first “normal” season for the Ravens since the coronavirus pandemic first began in the United States.

The Ravens started in 2019 and were set to begin their first season in the spring of 2020, but the pandemic had other plans. They were able to keep the team together and play their first season in 2021 with “rigorous” COVID-19 protocol in play.

Currently, the team has 30 active players with 40 total players on the roster.

Kylee O’Connor, 25, is a running back, receiver, free safety and placekicker for the Oregon Ravens. Courtesy Photo: Dillon Vibes (Photographer)

One of those team members is Kylee O’Connor, who is a jack of all trades. The 25-year-old is a running back, receiver, free safety, and placekicker, along with special teams and returns.

O’Connor said she learned about the Oregon Raven’s through the team’s photographer, who posted the photos on social media. She then tried out for the team and has been an asset ever since, according to Hinkle.

“Once you have the helmet and the pads, it’s completely different,” said O’Connor. “My forehead I still don’t think is used to having the helmet pressed against it for hours on end and the pads sometimes seems like they’re up in my ears.”

This is a different experience for O’Connor after starring on Oregon’s Track and Field team during her college career, where a mouthguard and heavy equipment weren’t part of the package. She said her interest in tackle football stems from covering the football team at the University of Oregon, which is the same team her father once played.

O’Connor remembers the first time she survived a tough hit on the field against the Denver Bandits.

“There was one play where I did a reach route where I run to the edge and then I was out of bounds, so I let up a little bit. Then, I got trucked,” she said as she slammed her fist into her other palm. “That was the first time I felt that I really knew what it’s like to get tackled hard.”

She hopes people in the Portland area can support the team as they continue their season.

As for the skeptics, Hinkle said she invites them to “come out and see a game.”

“As soon as you see these women put on a helmet and go out and make a tackle, complete a play, kick a field goal like Kylie did in our game on Saturday, there’s no longer any doubt that women can and do play this game very well,” she said. “I just try not to give the haters too much time because they don’t deserve it.”

The Ravens are set to play the Seattle Majestics at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 7 at Milwaukie High School located at 2301 S.E. Willard Street.

For tickets, visit here.