HOSCHTON — The field at Mill Creek High has seen its fair share of great athletes, but nothing like Friday night when the Atlanta Falcons strapped on the pads and helmets for their first live scrimmage of the season.
As a part of the Falcons All-Access Weekend, the NFL franchise took over the field of Class AAAAA Mill Creek to give their fans a free sneak peak at the 2008 team.
For new visitors to Mill Creek, one glance at the field and it was hard-pressed to realize that the game was being played in a high school stadium.
The field was perfectly manicured, with the Falcons logo emblazoned on the 50-yard line and sponsorship signs aligning the stands. Outside the stadium may have resided a high school, but inside it was all professional.
"We’re always trying to find new ways to get fans more personally involved in the Falcons experience, and the Allstate All-Access Weekend is a great way to do that," Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said in a press release. "It’s a chance to get to know the team a little better, see them in action, and have fun with friends and family and get ready for the 2008 season."
This was the first time that the Falcons have hosted an event like this away from downtown Atlanta. For two years, the team has held its annual scrimmage at Grady High, and according to linebacker Michael Boley, the turnout of 10,200 fans was rather unexpected.
"With this being this far away from downtown, we had no idea what to expect," said Boley, who intercepted a pass from Chris Redman at the start of the scrimmage. "It was nice. Not everybody gets to come out to camp and this gives them the opportunity to come and see the players up close and personal."
After the hour and a half-long scrimmage, in which the defense prevailed, the Falcons held a brief autograph session for the fans, while fireworks lit up the sky.
"It was a great event in terms of people coming out; we had a great crowd," said first-year head coach Mike Smith. "Our players had an opportunity to get away from training camp and play.
"It’s a change of pace for them," he added. "It’s like going back in time when they were high school players and I think they enjoyed it."
All-access weekend continues today with a mock game at the Georgia Dome. The event is free of charge.