LAWRENCEVILLE — Forsyth Central was the last Forsyth County girls flag football team standing, but the Bulldogs' season came to an end Thursday with an 18-6 loss to Archer in the Class 7A Elite Eight.
Central turned the ball over on each of its first three possessions, allowing the Tigers to claim a 12-0 lead early in the first half.
Abigail Zerm picked off Central QB Katie Robbins on a third-and-1 pass during the Bulldogs' opening possession, but Central's defense stood strong and forced a three-and-out to get the ball back. Devyn Lambert accounted for Archer's second interception of the night off a tipped pass, which led to a TD pass from Sam Meyer to Ariel Cherfily.
McKinsie Payne picked off Marlee McAdam and returned it for a touchdown on Central's next offensive series to double the Tigers' lead.
"Defensively, we actually did a good job," Central head coach James Mills said. "We started out with our backs to the end zone three times in a row from picks. It was just getting our offense motivated, and they kind of stalemated there."
Archer added another score right before halftime when Meyer found Ciara Fayson on a beautifully run corner route that left Fayson all alone in the end zone.
Central scored the only points of the second half when McAdam heaved a TD pass to Robbins, who outleapt the Archer defender and withstood a rough tackle to haul in the score.
"The second half was better, but we just couldn't overcome the deficit from the first half," Mills said. "That was hard, and in flag football with a running clock, it works against you when you get down in a hole like that. You don't have enough time and you don't have enough timeouts. He did a good job of running the clock out and waiting until the last second on snaps. He did a good job of coaching, and we just couldn't overcome it. Flag football is a fast-paced game."
Zerm added two more second-half interceptions to keep the Bulldogs off the board.
For much of the game, Archer was content to keep the ball underneath and rely on hitch routes and quick outs to sustain drives.
Mills said the Bulldogs were prepared defensively.
"I start calling people that I know and get film on them and scouting reports from when they played them," Mills said. "The thing with flag football that you can't predict is who they're going to show up with and in what formation. So, I can get film, but it's film from a game they played three weeks ago. Maybe they've made changes since then, and the same thing with us. So, we came out today with some different plays than Monday. We change our plays up every time we play, because they get film on you and they can see it."
Central finishes the season 11-6-1 and has now reached the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.
"We have the same high expectations for next year, to be honest," Mills said. "We're going to return the majority of our starting squad on both sides, so we have the same expectation as this year. This year, from last year, we expected to get past the quarterfinals."
The Bulldogs will graduate eight seniors: Abbie Flannigan, Emma Kiser, Mary Beth Lowe, Megan McCarthy, Holland Moon, Maddie Odum, Ashley Paz-Gonzalez and Sarah Pipping.
Mills said those seniors were integral to this season's success.
"We're starting to progress, and that's what this team has done this year better, I think, than last year's team," Mills said. "Last year's team we were operating off of athleticism. It was just drive and go, drive and go. This year we had the same athleticism, but they do a much better job of understanding the game. Last year not really hardly anybody on the field really understood the game -- and even me as a coach on the sidelines struggled to understand certain aspects of the game. This year, because of those seniors, we had freshmen and sophomores that were starting, and that's because those seniors are helping them understand the game."