Seven years ago, Dietra Sherwin turned on the news, and a peculiar story caught her eye.

Seven years ago, Dietra Sherwin turned on the news, and a peculiar story caught her eye.

A new professional football team was holding tryouts for women interested in suiting up. Not powder puff. Not a flag league. This was the real deal: full-gear, full-contact football for women ready to hit.

As a kid, Sherwin had lined up against boys in a pee-wee football league. She played three sports in high school, then joined the Mount Union College soccer team for four years. She decided to give pro pigskin a shot.

Today, Sherwin is a veteran strong safety for the Columbus Comets. Now in their sixth season, the Comets take the field at 7 p.m. Saturday on their home field at Grove City Christian School.

"I definitely love the intensity of the game and the camaraderie of our team," said Sherwin, who by day is a defense attorney in Blacklick. "I love to hit. It's just a fun game to play, and we enjoy it."

Except for a smaller ball and several minor rule adjustments, games in the Women's Football Alliance, a 35-team league the Comets joined this season, run just like those in the NFL.

Some Comets have played organized football; others show up with some related athletic skills and the raw desire needed to excel at any sport. They come from all over Central Ohio. Most hold day jobs, some have families, and all share a love of football and the chance to play in their own league.

"I know a lot of people think women playing football is a foreign concept, but if they come, they'll see that we do this because we love the game," said quarterback Crystal Davis, a Gahanna computer technician who grew up playing softball and basketball. "The coaches do a good job working with each player on an individual basis."

The Comets are 38-16 since 2004 and, this season, have crushed the Pittsburgh Force and Cincinnati Sizzle by a combined 85-0 margin. Davis has high hopes for this weekend's match against in-state rivals the Cleveland Fusion - and for reaching the playoffs.

"The key is that we're coming together as a team," she said. "The further we go down the road, the stronger we'll be. This is probably one of the closest-knit groups that I've been a part of in a while."