Peachtree Ridge quarterback Monique Thame, left, runs past a North Gwinnett player during the finals of the flag football championship Dec. 20, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Gwinnett County girls flag football teams are playing exhibition games 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Georgia World Congress Center as part of the pre-Super Bowl festivities. ANNIE RICE FOR THE AJC
Photo: Annie Rice
Photo: Annie Rice

Gwinnett girls flag football teams to play pre-Super Bowl exhibition

Although they might not have the moves of the AFC and NFC champions vying for Super Bowl rings, Georgia’s girl flag football players proved in their first season they’re made of tough stuff. And to let others know, they’re showcasing their talent Saturday.

With Atlanta as the epicenter of a football frenzy this weekend, the Atlanta Falcons and the NFL have invited Gwinnett County Public Schools’ football teams to play in a series of exhibition games on the Play Football Field at the Super Bowl Experience Driven by Hyundai. Peachtree Ridge High School, the 2018 Girls Flag Football Champions, runner-up North Gwinnett High School, and semi-finalists Collins Hill High School and Duluth High School will take the field inside the Georgia World Congress Center.

The inaugural girls flag football season for Gwinnett County schools wrapped up at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with four teams vying for the first championship won by Peachtree Ridge.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation partnered with Gwinnett Schools to bring girls flag football teams to 19 Gwinnett high schools in the fall of 2018. The four teams selected to play in the exhibition will have an opportunity to showcase their skills and the growth of girls flag football participation in Atlanta.

The girls league was an experiment to give high school girls the opportunity to participate in an organized league, spread flag football around the state and establish it as a Georgia High School Association-sanctioned sport — and to give girls one more chance at establishing active lifestyles that have immediate and long-term benefits for academics and their health.

Since Gwinnett County Public Schools piloted the program, interest has grown. Atlanta Public Schools, as well as Cobb, Fulton, Henry, Muscogee and Rockdale counties have inquired about starting programs for the 2019-20 school year. Whether districts will compete against each other hasn’t been worked out yet, but organizers are excited.

“This year exceeded our expectations,” said Chris Millman, vice president of community relations for the Atlanta Falcons. “The enthusiasm from the players, the schools and the fans was overwhelming.”

Gwinnett plans to keep it going strong.

“Our girls are a part of history,” said spokesman Bernard Watson. “They’re the first Georgia girls team to play an exhibition football game tied to the Super Bowl. They’re showing that they are just as capable to play a traditional boys’ sport and excel at it.”

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