Huge, steeped in tradition, territorial, pride
and bragging rights — Georgia’s high school
football rivalries create an atmosphere where
“special things can happen.”
NOT ALL FALL FRIDAYS ARE TREATED EQUALLY
“You can feel the electricity with the fans. The stands are
going to be more packed,” Spencer Smith, a 33-year Georgia
high school official, said.
Rivalries represent more than one single high school
football game. The unique thing about these tilts is they are
longer than the 48 minutes battled between players on the
field. They are the taunting, trash talk and boasting during
the week. They are the year’s worth of swagger. They are
parents and grandparents returning to their alma mater,
remembering the final drive in the same standoff from
RIVALRIES ARE HUGE
And there is no bigger regular season game in Georgia
than Valdosta-Lowndes. The Titletown battle is so much
bigger than a Region 1-AAAAAA win or loss, and the talent, history and community involved in the South Georgia
standoff amplify it.
“Fans make a point to show up when Valdosta plays
Lowndes,” Smith said. “Both stands are sold out and the
level of intensity rises dramatically.”
As if it were a Southeastern Conference gameday, cars
with black and gold or crimson and white flags pour into the
stadium parking lots hours before the game. Businesses
around town have windows painted in support of either team.
Student sections are going to be louder and rowdier from
kickoff until the final whistle.
But rivalries are bigger than just the thousands of
people packing out the stands. Whether it’s the Winnersville Classic in Valdosta or Northside-Warner Robins
duking it out, the emotions surrounding the game, both on
the field and in the stands, magnify every down played.
“That’s the kind of game that you’re going to see a very
experienced crew go to because you have to be ready to
handle anything,” Smith said.
RIVALRIES ARE STEEPED IN TRADITION.
The oldest rivalry in Georgia high school football isn’t be-
tween Georgia football behemoths. The longest consecutive
rivalry plays out in the northwest corner of the state between
two schools who, until 2013, were both single-A programs.
The over 80-year-old rivalry between Trion and Gordon
Lee has been played every season without interruption
since 1946, and according to Trion head coach Justin
Brown, means a lot to both the players and the community
simply because football means a lot to them.
“If you live in Trion or if you live in Chickamauga, there’s
not a bigger game on our calendar or on either of our
schedules,” Brown said.
Brown, as a 1992 graduate of Trion, has not only coached
“Around here, it’s just Trion-Gordon Lee. And that’s all you
the matchup but played in it, but he said it “never gets old.”
And while other rivalries have taken on nicknames— the
Winnersville Classic, the Showdown at the Mac, the Battle
for Buckhead—according to Brown, some games don’t need
a special title.
really have to say,” Brown said.
Though Trion-Gordon Lee can claim being the oldest rivalry
in the state, Benedictine-Savannah once held the streak,
playing over 100 times since the inaugural matchup in 1908.
The coastal clash was lost to region realignment and hasn’t
been played since 2011.
Some matchups, like Marist-St. Pius X, have reconvened in
2014 after region realignments threatened their extinction. The
Fish Bowl, which Marist has dominated with a record of 30-16-
3, pits Atlanta’s oldest Catholic schools against each other.
Though he only got a shot at St. Pius X once during his
RIVALRIES ARE TERRITORIAL
time at Marist, offensive lineman Sage Hardin, a 2015
graduate and current University of Georgia freshman, said
the game “is unlike any other.”
“We all went to the same schools growing up. All the
parents, all the coaches, likewise, they grew up playing each
other so it’s a very heated game,” Hardin said.
Some, maybe even most, rivalries are born out of geogra-
phy—the crosstown rivals. Friends versus friends. Relatives
on both sides. Former middle school teammates now
opposing each other.
During these hometown throwdowns, not only are region
wins up for grabs but also a year’s worth of claim on the town.
Like Marist and St. Pius X, Clarke Central and Cedar
Shoals high schools are separated by less than five miles.
Clarke Central head coach Ahren Self said the familiarity
between the teams in the Classic City Showdown is what
brings out the best in the game.
“It’s almost like fighting your brother,” Self said. “You’re not
afraid of each other because you know each other so well,
but you’re going to give it all you got.”
A rivalry game isn’t just a win or loss.
It’s tradition, pride and bragging rights. It’s passion and
it’s hate. It’s the Friday night that’s circled on the calendar at
the beginning of every season.
“When you take two [teams] that have a little bit of tradition
and have some pride and you put them out there on the field
on Friday night, special things can happen,” Brown said.
BY CAITLYN STROH