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High school football: Northeast Georgia's best prepare for 2019 FCA East West Football Classic
The game will take place at North Hall High School on Monday, Dec. 16 at 7:30 p.m.
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Flowery Branch's Chase Dial-Watson finds a hole in the Viking defense Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, for a big gain during the first half of their game at The Branch. - photo by Scott Rogers

The high school football season will come to a close with this weekend’s state championship games, but local seniors still have a shot to suit up for one more game in next week’s FCA East West Football Classic. The contest – pitting players from schools all over northeast Georgia against each other – will take place on Monday at 7:30 p.m. at North Hall High.

“It’s an opportunity for some seniors to get their last game of football in, while playing with other players from other schools and being taught by coaches from other schools,” Trojans coach David Bishop said. “Things like that are always kind of fun.”

The event is coming to Lynn Cottrell Field for the first time, after spending the last couple of years at Riverside Military. 

Bishop said amenities such as North Hall’s brand-new turf field and jumbotron, along with music, an MC and halftime giveaways will give the contest a big game feel — an extravagant sendoff for the seniors playing in their very last high school football game. 

“It’ll be somewhat like a Sunday afternoon maybe at the Benz,” Bishop said.

Bishop will be head coach for the West squad, comprised of coaches and players from North Hall, West Hall, Gainesville, Chestatee, Riverside Military Academy, Lakeview Academy, Jackson County, Lumpkin County and Commerce. That group will be matched up against an East team made up of athletes from Flowery Branch, Cherokee Bluff, East Hall, Johnson, Lanier Christian Academy, Banks County, White County, Habersham Central and East Jackson. 

Flowery Branch’s Ben Hall — head coach for the East team — said local all-star events such as this are always fun for the kids who grew up competing against one another, but now must team up to finish their high school careers out strong.

“It’s really seamless,” Hall said of his group. “They’ve gelled from the start. Most of them, they’ve grown up in this area and played rec ball on up with and against each other. It’s fun to watch them do it.”

And it’s not just the kids who have enjoyed the process. 

Both Bishop and Hall said they’ve relished the opportunity to team up with rival coaches and come up with a game plan together, rather than in opposition of one another. 

“You always have that rivalry where you’re constantly battling against each other on Friday nights and stuff like that,” Bishop said. “Well, now you get to work together. It’s also pretty neat to be able to coach other kids and build relationships that way.”

“That is a lot of fun,” Hall said. “Most of us know one another well, and that’s in large part due to FCA.”

Over the years, FCA East West Football Classic has become more than just a football game. It’s an opportunity for members of communities all over northeast Georgia to come together on one night of the year as friends, rather than rivals.

Winning will still be on the mind of every player, coach and spectator in attendance, but the communal bonding of the contest will stretch well beyond the final score.

“It brings everybody together under the umbrella of football without the intensity of a rivalry,” Bishop said. “The parents are all kind of pulling in the same direction. Everybody’s kind of joined together for something common, which is unusual.” 

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