Football is no longer a boys-only sport in Georgia.
The Georgia High School Association adopted girls’ flag football as a varsity sport for the 2020-21 academic year, and Greenbrier hosted the area’s first games last Thursday night.
Greenbrier took the day with wins over Lakeside (18-6) and Evans (9-0). The Knights also earned a 14-7 win over Lakeside. While wins and losses are important, especially in region games, it was less about the outcome and more about the historic moment for Columbia County.
For Evans coach Ricky Beale, it’s good for the county to provide girls another option for varsity competition. A football coach at Evans for 20 years, taking a team with no football experience and practicing for just two weeks was an exciting new challenge for Beale.
“It’s been interesting,” he said. “After doing 20 years of football, I realized I had to tone things down a little bit. Teaching the girls, they’ve learned it pretty well and they’re asking about it and wanting to and that’s the fun part about it — seeing them excited about something they haven’t done and it’s real fun watching that growth.”
Rosters on these teams feature star athletes from other sports such as basketball, softball and track, giving these coaches a good foundation to work from. Greenbrier senior Megan Steinmeyer is better known for throwing fastballs on the softball field, but she was doing the same thing at quarterback for the Pack on Thursday.
Retired volleyball coach Debbie Born has returned to coaching this year for the Wolfpack and her team was impacted by that very thing early on.
“Day one we didn’t have that many kids here, because softball and volleyball were still in playoffs,” she said. “We still didn’t have our full squad out tonight with cross country girls at state, so we’re just taking it day by day, but we’ve really come a long way.”
Another aspect of this sport is that games are played in a jamboree-style setting, with multiple games on a single night at a single venue. The next action in the area takes place at Grovetown on Tuesday, Nov. 10 and Thursday, Nov. 12 at Lakeside.
In the sport’s infancy in the area, it’s about enjoying this season and hoping to build on it for future classes.
“We just want to see us improve every day and have fun,” Beale said. “The biggest thing about playing flag football in the first year is we want the girls to enjoy it and maybe we can build it bigger and get more kids to play next year.”