New­ton County pre­pares for clas­sic show­down

Homer Sharp Sta­dium ex­pect­ing full house tonight

The Covington News - - SPORTS - By Ja­son Mur­dock

In less than 12 hours and count­ing, Homer Sharp Sta­dium will be rock­ing — filled to the brim with thou­sands of fans rep­re­sent­ing two lo­cal foot­ball teams.

If past games be­tween East­side and New­ton are any in­di­ca­tion, ex­pect ap­prox­i­mately 5,000 to 7,000 fans in at­ten­dance.

Af­ter the game, the county main­te­nance de­part­ment will no doubt have its hands full re­gard­ing cleanup du­ties.

Joe Gheesling, prin­ci­pal of New­ton High School, has been as­so­ci­ated with foot­ball most of his life, as ei­ther a player or coach, and ad­mits that this par­tic­u­lar game has “truly evolved into a sports event.”

“Sharp Sta­dium is the place to be (tonight),” said Gheesling. “Al­though in­tense and com­pet­i­tive, I feel that this is a healthy ri­valry that is ben­e­fi­cial to both schools and the county in gen­eral. It has done much to en­gen­der a high level of school spirit and com­mu­nity sup­port for our schools.”

Last year, the Ea­gles edged the Rams, 21-20, in thrilling and dra­matic fash­ion.

For East­side head coach Rick Hurst, it will be a sigh of re­lief af­ter the game, re­gard­less of the out­come.

“It means a lot be­cause it’s our first game,” said Hurst ear­lier this month. “Our goal (is)

to win each game ev­ery week, but not look past that. So, we want to make sure that we’re ready for New­ton, but we don’t want to get over­whelmed by it. We need to know that

eah, it’s im­por­tant for the com­mu­nity and all, but it’s not the end of the world. Af­ter that game it will be a re­lief be­cause there’s so much hype and build up to it.”

— Rick Hurst Foot­ball head coach, East­side High School

would be best to cre­ate a di­vided area sep­a­rat­ing the op­pos­ing fans, which in­cluded their own sep­a­rate con­ces­sions and bath­rooms.

Ac­cord­ing to Rod­den­berry, there have not been any ma­jor con­fronta­tions or dis­putes we (have) nine games left and we’ve got to win those be­cause those are the ones that re­ally, re­ally count.

“We don’t want our kids to throw ev­ery­thing out the win­dow if some­thing hap­pens; it’s not in our fa­vor,” added Hurst.

New­ton first-year head coach Nick Collins is op­ti­mistic about the game. Al­though he is the new kid on the block, he un­der­stands the im­por­tance of the matchup.

“The way you get things ac­com­plished quickly is to get fa­vored lo­cally,” said Collins ear­lier this month, “and the only way you’re go­ing to do that is to beat your crosstown (teams).”

Al­though kick­off does not com­mence un­til 7:30 p.m., fans should an­tic­i­pate ar­riv­ing to the sta­dium early in or­der to get a seat, since it is ex­pected to be stand­ing room only.

Gates open at 6:30 p.m., but fans are en­cour­aged to get in line as early as 6 p.m. since the game will more than likely be sold out.

“You can ex­pect that if the weather is good not to be able to turn around,” laughed Den­nis Rod­den­berry, East­side ath­letic di­rec­tor. “That’s how many peo­ple will be at this game.”

Last year, sev­eral at­ten­dees en­joyed tail­gat­ing par­ties — mi­nus the al­co­hol — which in­cluded grilling out and catch­ing up with friends and fam­ily alike.

Rod­den­berry has been at­tend­ing the ri­valry ever since he stepped on the scene in New­ton County.

“It’s go­ing to be tough get­ting in there,” said Rod­den­berry. “(Tonight) will be tight try­ing to get ev­ery­body in the sta­dium.”

De­spite it be­ing a crosstown game, Ge­or­gia High School rules states that the sta­dium must keep fans sep­a­rated. Since it is a home game for New­ton, East­side fans must sit on the much smaller visit­ing side; how­ever, it al­ter­nates each year.

Last year, the school ad­min­is­tra­tion de­cided it

’ve got­ten a gen­eral feel for (this) game. We’ve got to do some things well and do (them) well in a hurry. If you can’t beat East­side and Al­covy, you’re not go­ing to get a whole lot done around here.”

— Nick Collins Foot­ball head coach, New­ton High School

among fans since the teams have been com­pet­ing against each other.

“I can’t re­call any bad sit­u­a­tions hap­pen­ing,” said Rod­den­berry. “Hope­fully, it will be just a re­ally good game with lots of ex­cite­ment.”

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