Buford is a sports-loving community and now local residents have one more sport in which to cheer for — girls flag football. Buford High School will hold its inaugural girls flag football season starting this fall.

Girls flag football at the high school level in Georgia began in 2019 with a 19-school pilot program in the Georgia High School Association (GHSA). Flag football, which is an all-female sport for the GHSA, has grown tremendously over the last few years. This coming season there will be more than 250 flag football programs in high schools across the state, including Buford.

Bringing the new flag football program to fruition has been a two-year process. It started with surveying the high school student body to see if enough girls were interested in participating in the sport. Once the school established that the interest was there, the search for coaching staff took place.

Buford held its first mini flag football camp July 10-12 at BHS. Photo by Alicia Payne

Former head tennis coach and football operations manager, Sean Gilbert stepped up to take on the head coaching position. He will be assisted by Eric Borders, Megan Hill and Sara Mackey.

“The popularity of this sport is off the charts,” said Gilbert. “I had 150+ girls fill out interest forms. and I had 90 show up to tryouts and you can only play seven.. I kept 40-ish knowing that sometimes my softball girls, sometimes basketball  and sometimes volleyball will be in and out. So I would rather start with a large number and go from there.”

Head coach Sean Gilbert goes over a play with the offense during a scrimmage game on July 10. Photo by Alicia Payne

The majority of the athletes on the newly formed flag football teams already play another sport at Buford so Gilbert anticipates having to work around the girls’ obligations to their primary sport. 

“I am not going to do anything to take away from the other sports,” said Gilbert. “I am not going to sit there and say, ‘Choose.’ I’m going to try my best within reason. If they are respectful, if they communicate and all those things, I want to have as many of those good athletes out here that I can.”

The sport, Gilbert feels, is one that can easily be picked up by girls wishing to participate in the sport. While most of the players are on another team at BHS, several of the girls do not play other sports and flag football has given them a chance to be on an athletic team at Buford.

Besides the sport being a no-contact sport, there are several other key differences between flag football and full contact football. The sport requires a lot of ball movement with laterals and pitching. If the ball is fumbled and hits the ground, the ball is dead. There is no turnover. The only way to turn the ball over is an interception. The center position is one of the better receivers. In blocking, players have to block with their hands behind their back.

Games are shorter at 40 minutes long which means that Buford will play two teams on one day, essentially like a double header. The varsity team has 17 games plus a scrimmage game.

When asked about the community and school support for the new sport, Gilbert said, “The school and community support is tremendous. Everyone is really excited about it. The games will be played at Tom Riden Stadium and we will turn the matrix board on. We want to give the players the full experience of playing in the stadium including running out of the tunnel.”

Buford’s flag football region opponents are Archer, Collins Hill, Dacula, Grayson, Lanier, Mill Creek, Mountain View, North Gwinnett and Seckinger.

Buford will have a scrimmage game on Wednesday, Sept. 27 at home against Roswell. The inaugural season officially gets started on Monday, Oct. 16, when the Wolves will host Parkview and Towers. Region play begins on Monday, Oct. 23 against Lanier and North Gwinnett at Tom Riden Stadium.

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