ATLANTA — Last-minute dramatics are nothing new for the Calvary Day girls flag football team, and the Cavaliers survived another high-pressure finish on Monday to bring home a championship in the state’s newest official sport.
Calvary Day, which scored on the game’s final play to win its semifinal game against Northside Columbus, came up with a crucial interception from Nevaeh Hamilton with 1:24 left to secure a 6-0 victory over Portal and win the GHSA Class 1A-5A championship at Georgia State University’s Center Parc Stadium.
The Cavaliers scored their only touchdown on the previous possession when Hannah Cail threw an 11-yard pass to Katie Ellenwood with 9:00 left.
“I just told myself not to drop it like I did the last time,” Ellenwood said.
Portal came close to tying the game on its final possession. Quarterback Emma Yates’ pass down the sideline was well-defended but tipped in the air and caught by Brianna Milton, who raced 40 yards for what appeared to be the tying score. But the touchdown was negated by an illegal contact penalty. Calvary Day ended the comeback with Hamilton’s interception.
Portal was able to move the ball effectively for most of the first half but never got in the end zone. The Panthers pushed as far as the 8 before turning it over on downs.
“We had that bend-but-don’t-break defense,” Calvary Day coach Chad Griffin said. “That’s the way we’ve been all year.”
Calvary Day finished the season 6-0-2, while Portal was 6-2-1. The two teams tied 6-6 during the regular season.
The victory adds another state title to Calvary Day’s legacy, which includes three volleyball titles, two baseball championships and one girls basketball trophy.
“This is just an amazing experience for our girls,” Griffin said. “To have it in a place like this and for GPB (Georgia Public Broadcasting) to televise it, it’s a great thing. This is something our girls will remember for as long as they live.”
Ellenwood said: “It’s an honor to win this. We didn’t even think about this happening when we started. It was just a new sport. And to be able to win the first one is special.”
There were almost 100 flag teams that competed in two classifications throughout Georgia this season, the first the sport was sanctioned as a championship sport by the Georgia High School Association. West Forsyth defeated Hillgrove 26-25 in double overtime in the Class 6A-7A game later Monday.
“It’s just a wonderful opportunity to allow these girls a chance to compete for a state championship,” GHSA executive director Robin Hines said. “It’s the culmination of three years of hard work and we’re happy to have a partnership with the Atlanta Falcons and we’re happy that GPB made the decision to televise the games. I think a lot of people have seen what a good sport this is.”
On the web
For a photo gallery from Calvary Day’s victory, see this article at savannahnow.com/sports.