Are you ready for some ri­val foot­ball?

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

Can you be­lieve that high school foot­ball will once again be upon us in less than one week?

It goes with­out say­ing around here that foot­ball is king in the state of Ge­or­gia. But as the sea­son nears, one thing is cer­tain right now: Al­covy, East­side and New­ton are each tied for first place, and the fu­ture is so bright for them that you need a pair of those stylish avi­a­tor glasses Tom Cruise sported in “Top Gun.”

Af­ter all, it’s the start of a new sea­son filled with new prom­ises, new plays, new tricks, new play­ers, old play­ers, new slo­gans, new as­sis­tant coaches and even a brand new head coach in one par­tic­u­lar case.

For the Ea­gles and Rams, there will be mul­ti­ple emo­tions danc­ing aim­lessly above their wings and horns through­out the week lead­ing up to Fri­day, when they square off in the most highly an­tic­i­pated game of the year in New­ton County. Not only is it the sea­son-opener for each squad, but a mere six miles sep­a­rates th­ese ri­val schools, which makes it all the more worth­while to be ex­cited.

Since 2002, New­ton has led the se­ries, 3-2. But soon the Ea­gles will have the chance to even the score.

This is just an­other foot­ball game. Granted, it is the first game of the sea­son and ev­ery­one — play­ers,

coaches, cheer­lead­ers, band mem­bers, boost­ers, par­ents, teach­ers and fans alike — will be psyched and ready to rum­ble be­fore a packed house. But this par­tic­u­lar bat­tle is be­tween two fun­da­men­tally sound teams, and the game should set the tone and pace for the rest of the sea­son.

My in­stinct tells me that East­side head coach Rick Hurst wants to wel­come firstyear New­ton head coach Nick Collins with a firm mes­sage, us­ing an ex­pe­ri­enced and well-coached crop of ath­letes to dis­man­tle a young and rather in­ex­pe­ri­enced team. Ob­vi­ously, th­ese are not his own thoughts. But it is fun to spec­u­late what the man, who turned around a sink­ing pro­gram, is ac­tu­ally con­tem­plat­ing be­fore he falls asleep each night.

The truth is Hurst wants to win no mat­ter what the fi­nal score is — whether by one point or 20 points — and will do his best to treat this game just like any other game. But my gut tells me that he wants to re­mind the Rams last year’s 21-20 vic­tory was no fluke: The Ea­gles are for real.

On the other hand, Collins wants to be­gin his head coach­ing ca­reer with a W, and what bet­ter way to do so than by de­feat­ing your arch ri­val? Al­though he has never faced the Ea­gles, noth­ing would please him more than to get re­venge from a pre­vi­ous heart­break­ing loss the Rams suf­fered last year.

Not only would a vic­tory have New­ton head­ing in the right di­rec­tion — up — but it would also build credit to­ward what Collins is try­ing to ac­com­plish with his new pro­gram.

As a sports jour­nal­ist, it’s my re­spon­si­bil­ity and duty to cre­ate as much ex­cite­ment and buzz per­tain­ing to this show­down. They don’t come around of­ten, es­pe­cially a dandy such as this one. And there is no sugar-coat­ing or get­ting around it: We are trapped in a no-spin zone be­cause it is ob­vi­ous that a mat­ter of pride is on the line be­tween two in­com­pa­ra­ble ath­letic pro­grams.

Be­sides, if the abun­dance of in­ter­est draws a big­ger crowd to Homer Sharp Sta­dium, then bring it on. Who in their right mind doesn’t want the seats filled to ca­pac­ity un­der the strik­ing Fri­day night lights? The only draw­back is that one team will go home a win­ner, and the other will just go home.

Fur­ther­more, Al­covy faces New­ton dur­ing the fol­low­ing week of ac­tion, which should bring just as many fans to the gates. Un­for­tu­nately, the sec­ond-year Tigers will travel to Haber­sham Cen­tral for their sea­son-opener and com­pete against a solid team likely to win its re­gion. Win or lose, Al­covy will cer­tainly be hun­gry for a win against New­ton in Week 2.

If I don’t make some at­tempt — a mild one, at that — to pro­duce more an­tic­i­pa­tion re­gard­ing th­ese crosstown games, then I have failed you, the reader, as your lo­cal sports ed­i­tor.

This is Ge­or­gia vs. Florida, Mi­ami vs. Florida State, Auburn vs. Alabama, Dal­las vs. Philadel­phia. Pick your poi­son and feel free to fill in the blanks, be­cause each sce­nario rep­re­sents one thing there is no get­ting around:

Ja­son Mur­dock

Sports Ed­i­tor

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