Truly, the one and only game that captures my attention on the high school football calendar is upon us this week: Gainesville vs. North Hall. With the high school season and college season overlapping, most of my attention during the fall is centered exclusively around the University of Georgia’s game for the weekend, and if possible, seeing kids locally on the high school field that the Bulldogs are targeting.
But this local rivalry between the Trojans and Red Elephants (both 1-1 this season) is different. It’s the tradition of two of the great high school programs right in our own backyard against each other. It’s also the same old story of parents that played for one school and passed down the sense of urgency to win this game to their sons.
Yes, there are other good rivalries in Hall County, but much of that got snuffed out when Flowery Branch got bumped up to Class AAAA this season. Hopefully, Gainesville and North Hall will get to continue their respective matchups against the Falcons in years to come.
I was trying to think of some fresh angle to write about with this year’s matchup of the Red Elephants and Trojans slated for Friday at The Brickyard, but I came up empty. Of course, that may be the beauty of this rivalry is that the basic tradition is all it takes to make it so important for both schools. No gimmicks or artificial inflation with playoff implications are necessary to bring home the importance of this game for both schools.
Of course, there is one great myth that circles around with this rivalry, which is that these two schools have a true hatred for each other. That’s just silly. As a person that grew up in this county, I can assure you that people with a ties to this rivalry don’t dislike each other. It’s hard to hate someone you work with, worship with or live next door to all over a high school football game. If so, it’s time to re-evaluate your priorities in life.
Trust me, I don’t think any kids from Gainesville are going to de-friend their comrades from North Hall on Facebook, or vice versa, over this football game.
You can already imagine what the scene will look like during the game Friday at North Hall. Both sides will be splashed with the schools’ colors and there won’t be an empty seat in the house by the time kickoff rolls around.
The timing of this game couldn’t be better for me. I can follow the hype leading up to the game, hopefully helping take my mind off the egg that the Bulldogs laid last Saturday against South Carolina. I’m already worried about what Arkansas is going to do to us this weekend in Athens, if we can’t get over our desire to try and arm tackle on every play.
No, this week is all about high school football. And with the way Region 8-AAA was set up this season, both teams could face each other again for the region title in Week 10, at The Brickyard, if each wins their side of the subregion.
This is high school football at its best.
Bill Murphy is a sports writer for The Times.