ATLANTA – Archer High School's Jesse Hamby couldn't believe she was about to do it.
For the first time ever, the girls of Archer High School's flag football team took the field in front of hundreds of fans at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
"This is huge," Hamby said. "This where the Julio Jones and the Atlanta Falcons play. This is amazing to even step on the field."
One of eight teams to make it to the 2019 girls' high school flag football state championships, the Archer girls were in awe of the opportunity before them, but more than ready for the challenge.
The atmosphere is unlike anything the girls have experienced before, in fact, they are the first football team from their high school to play in the new home of the Falcons.
"Seeing all the other teams and the amazing energy in this building just gets us hyped up," said Zamiyah Wedderburn. "Usually it's football and basketball that are the main sports, but for such a new sport to get the support and attention that we have has been unreal."
According to head coach David Wright, this season has been a challenge for the Archer team, but his girls have risen to the challenge. When Archer began its flag football program last year, they had a tough task creating the team. It wasn't because they didn't have enough girls who wanted to play, they actually had way too many.
"We had a lot of interest in year one," Wright said. "We had 65 girls try out and we kept 15."
The Tigers' first season ended in heartbreak. A loss in the county championship meant they narrowly missed out on playing in Mercedes-Benz Stadium last season. But now, Archer is back and living it up. Their rise to the state championships has made them the talk of the school.
"Walking the hallways in school, the girls are celebrities because they're going to the Mercedes-Benz Stadium," Wright said. "I see a bunch of the football players are already here to root on their girls."
"It's been a surreal experience," Cassady Wallace said. "It's crazy to me how people have looked up to us. Girls have been coming up to me saying, 'Oh, I want to play flag football, too.'"
The Archer team has helped pave the way for girls across the state to do just that. Next fall, girls' flag football will be available in all 159 Georgia counties as it has become an officially sanctioned sport.
"I've grown up playing sports since I was 3, and for girls who haven't found their sport yet to be able to play flag football at the high school level is amazing," Hamby said.
The Tigers ultimately fell in a close game to Columbus High School in the semifinals, but what they've done for girls in the game of football is a far greater achievement.
"I really want my daughter to play it," Wallace said. "I want girls to be able to have the same experience and opportunity I've had."