In honor of high school football season, The Times continues a series on Hall County’s high school football stadiums: Their histories, key memories and what makes them unique. Next week: Flowery Branch High School’s Falcon Field. Fans who would like to share their memories can email Dallas Duncan at email@example.com.
War Eagle Stadium at Chestatee High School hasn't hosted many big games. At only 10 years old, its traditions are still being developed.
But what War Eagle Stadium does have is an infectious spirit.
Parents, the marching band, cheerleaders and spectators line a path every home game as the football team marches out on the gridiron for the War Eagle Walk. The students dressed in War Eagle colors black out their section, thanks to the work of the Black Mob, Chestatee's pep club. There's the black wall covered in inspirational quotes, proclaiming War Eagle country as sacred turf.
And then there's the team, led by coaches who once took the black and red themselves.
"I actually went to school here and played football the first year it was open," said Tyler Stover, a former Chestatee quarterback now serving as wide receiver coach.
That first year the War Eagles — a mascot coined by former Principal John Barge, now state school superintendent — didn't have a weight room.
"We did our summer workouts at what was then called Fitness Zone in the Publix shopping center on Thompson Bridge (Road)," Matt Stowers, physical education department chair and assistant wrestling and football coach at Chestatee, said in an email to The Times. "It caught a few weird looks from their members when we were doing mat drills in their aerobic classroom."
Stover vividly remembers his first game at the stadium.
"The very first game played was the first annual Battle of the Birds. We won 14-13," said Stan Luttrell, Chestatee head coach.
Battle of the Birds, the yearly match up between the War Eagles and the Flowery Branch Falcons, became the school's first big rivalry.
"The first touchdown ever scored at the stadium was Jeremy Brock ... that put us up 7-0. I think it was the second quarter before they scored and they missed the extra point, so we were up 7-6. We scored again before halftime and I scored that one," Stover said.
The third quarter brought with it another Falcons touchdown, putting the score at 14-13.
"Late in the game, a guy named Johnny Dillard intercepted one of their passes, and we were able to kneel it and win the game," Stover said.
Both Flowery Branch and Chestatee opened the same year, so their teams were on the same page in terms of age, size and skill.
"We were the same level as them," Stover said. "For the first year or so, if we won a game, that was the game we won."
The Battle of the Birds continued until Flowery Branch went to Class-AAAA two years ago. Then scheduling conflicts prevented the two schools from facing each other on the field.
Chestatee's other heated competition is against the North Hall Trojans. One win against the Trojans came in a monsoon, Stowers said.
"Chestatee/North Hall is definitely a rivalry," Stover said. "A lot of kids came to Chestatee from North Hall, myself included, when it was built. They're only five or 10 minutes from each other. That's one of those things where both teams look at the schedule, circle the date and say, ‘We're going to win this game.'"
Stover said because the team is still young, there haven't been many major games at War Eagle Stadium, but that doesn't stop the team from trying.
"A big win was when we beat Gainesville, Oct. 5, 2007," Luttrell said. "We beat them 35-19. That's the only time the varsity has ever beaten Gainesville."
However, with a growing fan base and Chestatee players making it big in college, Stover said he believes the football team is going to keep expanding.
"We are an up-and-coming program that is here to make a statement," he said. "We are going to do everything we can to play the best football we can."
The team is doing well this year, with a 3-0 win record.
"This is the first year in the school's history we've been 3-0," Principal and former Athletic Director Chip Underwood said. "We're about the total package. We want to develop young men who know hard work, doing the right thing and responsibility. That goes a lot longer than Friday nights."
Well-known War Eagles who learned these lessons well include Chase Vasser, now an outside line backer at the University of Georgia, former Air Force Academy lineman Brantley Beck and runningback/defensive back Ben Souther.
Stover learned them too, and he's ready to share them with his boys.
"I'm glad I was able to come back and be part of the program," Stover said. "I know what it's like to be a War Eagle. There's nowhere I would rather be."