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In lean times, students still see a payoff

POSTED: November 18, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Sara Guevara/The Times

Gainesville High School seniors Robbie Bilbrough, left, 18, and Andy Edmondson run the school's flag across the field before a playoff game Friday night against Oconee County High School at the City Park Stadium.

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Even in lean financial times, local educators make sure student athletes’ hard work is rewarded.

Such is the case this week, as football season continued for 160 schools across Georgia, adding travel and other expenses to budgets that already are tight for many school systems.

Of course, half of those teams and their fans were required to hit the road for away games, though some longer than others. Banks County and Riverside high schools, for example, had trips to Calhoun and Rome that exceeded two hours — and both local teams lost. Flowery Branch, with nearly a three-hour drive to Toccoa to take on Stephens County, had the longest trip this week among area teams. Other teams, such as Gainesville, North Hall and Buford — all three of which ended up winning Friday night and advancing to the second round of the playoffs — were able to start their state title quests at home.

But do the extra costs of an extended season add up?

Will Schofield, superintendent of Hall County schools, said the cost of transporting football players, band members and cheerleaders to state playoff games is “negligible.” Fuel prices have dropped about $1 a gallon since football season began in August, spiking in early September during the height of a gasoline shortage that had many schools canceling field trips.

With several area teams all making it to at least one game of the state playoffs, administrators said if the students make the wins, they’ll provide the means to get them to the big game.

But perhaps the bigger pain is not the extra cost for traveling to an away game that’s across the state, but going all that way only to lose.

That was the case for Heard County, which traveled to Buford from near the Georgia-Alabama state line to get beat 56-21 Friday night.

But it wasn’t a dismal ride home for Flowery Branch. The Falcons easily topped Stephens County, 42-21, making their three-hour bus ride home from Toccoa a whole lot sweeter.



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