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Flag football: West outlasts Hillgrove to win historic state title
West Forsyth girls flag football players celebrate Saturday after winning the Class 6A-7A state championship game. - photo by Jacob Smith

ATLANTA — After Hillgrove failed to convert their extra-point in double overtime of Monday's state championship game, West Forsyth quarterback Haylee Dornan led Wolverines’ offense onto the field. 

Dornan, the Area 5 Player of the Year, kept the ball and ran for a short gain. Her next play ended in a deflected pass. 

On third down, Dornan scrambled to find any open receivers and was forced to cross the line of scrimmage. After juking past the Hillgrove defender, Dornan stuck the ball out past the goal line to tie the game at 25. 

The extra point brought West the first-ever GHSA flag football state championship, outlasting Hillgrove 26-25 in double overtime.

Dornan looked for her favorite target, Caroline Coggin, on the play but every receiver was covered. Dornan tucked the ball and sprinted for the pylon to win the game. 

Two Hillgrove defenders dove and grabbed Dornan’s flags as she crossed the goal line. Dornan looked up and saw the ref’s arms shoot into the air to signal the play good. 

West had won the state championship. 

A la Brandi Chastain, Dornan fell to her knees and pumped her first in the air as the rest of her teammates sprinted over to initiate a celebratory dog pile. 

“It’s amazing,” Dornan said. “I was saying earlier that I couldn’t imagine how I would feel, and this is beyond anything I could have ever imagined.”

When West head coach Mike Pruitt walked back to his team after accepting the state championship trophy, he motioned over to Dornan. They shared an embrace and then he handed Dornan the trophy for the team to celebrate with. Dornan gave it a big kiss and then lifted it to the sky while her teammates jumped for joy around her. 

“I’ll tell you what,” Pruitt said. “These girls are just as competitive as any men’s team I’ve coached in the past — maybe more. It means just as much. I’ve coached in other big games and big venues, but this will stick out for so many unique reasons.”

Dornan finished the game completing 8 of 16 passes for two touchdowns, intercepting the ball twice on defense (once denying Hillgrove a potentially game-winning extra point), scoring another touchdown on the ground, adding an extra point and a catch for 11 yards. 

Coggin kept up her red-hot performance all season as well. She caught both of Dornan’s touchdowns and threw for the first Wolverines’ touchdown in overtime. Sara Lemley made a one-hand grab on Coggin’s pass for the touchdown. 

West played a mistake-free first half. Twice Hillgrove drove the ball to the red zone, but the Wolverines’ defense shut out Hillgrove twice, with Dornan’s first interception coming right in front of the end zone. 

The defense forced a Hillgrove three-and-out to start the second half, but Dornan’s first pass attempt was batted down at the line and intercepted. 

Hillgrove scored their first touchdown. After the offenses exchanged punts, Dornan’s pass bounced off of the receiver’s chest and was intercepted again. Hillgrove drove down the field to tie the game, but their extra point was stopped by a Dornan dive tackle. 

“That’s how every state championship should be played,” Pruitt said. “Down to the wire. It’s good that GHSA did it with the boys game attached to it, because it gives an opportunity for everyone to see what it was like. There is a place for girls football.” 

When asked what being a pioneer of girls’ flag football meant to her, Dornan said she hopes her performance on the field shows how tough girls can be on the football field. 

“I speak for me and I speak for all the girls on the team when I say that we are excited to be pioneers because we didn’t have that,” Dornan said. “I hope this encourages more girls to play.” 

West finished second in the region during the regular season. Throughout the state playoff bracket, the Wolverines outscored their opponents 102-26 up until the championship game. Their 35-0 victory against McEachern in the Elite Eight was the most points scored in tournament play. 

Despite their performance throughout tournament play, Dornan credited superstition to not even thinking about how the team would celebrate for a state championship. 

“I reckon there’s gonna be a lot of noise and I’m not gonna be able to hear anything for the next week,” Dornan said.