Are you ready for some rival football?
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: