Travis Church wasn't sure what to expect when he became Lambert's girls flag football coach.
He didn't anticipate the Google Doc he created before tryouts to fill up with 90 signatures, he likely didn't expect to come two scores from a county championship and he almost certainly didn't imagine he'd end the season coaching the Forsyth County all-stars inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Forsyth County fell in the first game of the single-elimination tournament Thursday, 19-6, to Collins Hill, but Church said the experience will last a lifetime.
“Well, we didn’t do as well as we wanted to," Church said. "We definitely wanted to go there and compete a little bit better than we did. But, at the end of the day, I think it was about more than that. I know the girls wanted to compete better than we did, and as a coach I sure as heck did as well, but ultimately the experience is something they’re going to look back on and not really remember what the score of the game was or whatever.”
Columbus beat Collins Hill 31-0 in the championship game of the tournament, which was sponsored by the Atlanta Falcons.
Before the game, the players and coaches received a true NFL welcome.
“It was pretty incredible," Church said. "The bus unloaded at the loading dock underneath the stadium and we got to kind of walk in underneath and it felt like a real NFL team would.”
The tournament caps the first season of girls flag football in Forsyth County and sets the stage for the sport to become sanctioned by the Georgia High School Association next year, a move that was officially announced Wednesday before the games.
“We knew the need for more girls’ sports in Georgia was there, and that was enough for us to get started,” Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay said in a press release. “The goal was always to get this program to become an officially sanctioned sport and give girls more opportunities to play sports in high schools and we are thrilled that the GHSA shared the same vision. It’s an exciting time for high school sports in Georgia.”
The sport stretched across six counties this year but will reportedly grow to 159 teams across Georgia in the 2020-21 school year.
“I don’t think the girls realize the impact that they have now," Church said, "but moving forward, I think it will become a little bit more clear just how incredible what they did this season actually was, in regards to female athletics in the state of Georgia.
“As someone who’s been through high school sports and everything like that, I kind of get a better understanding of it, but what they’re doing for female athletics in the state is incredible. The fact that we were able to kind of get in on the ground floor and be a part of that is really something special that I think they’ll be able to look back on and tell their kids about 20, 30 years for now.”