WARNER ROBINS -- Kiara Thompson walks into a school office Thursday, wearing all black. One of her classmates sits beside her, donning a black suit and tie. A teacher walks down the hallway, carrying a black rose. A black coffin sits in the cafeteria, guarded by the ROTC.
Were all sad today, said Thompson, 17, a senior at Northside High School, because were going to kill a demon.
Northside students were preparing for Fridays game against Warner Robins High School by pretending to mourn what they claim is the imminent defeat of the Demons -- the Warner Robins mascot.
But Warner Robins students -- who were dressed as hippies, cavemen and greasers as part of their Demons Through the Decades theme -- said no one should be crying.
I dont see how you can kill a demon, said Farbod Zahiri, 18, a senior at Warner Robins. I see how you can kill a bird (referring to the Northside Eagles), that happens every day.
This isnt simply a football game. For students -- as well as community members -- its the event of the year. The rivalry goes back decades to a time when the two schools, which sit only a few miles apart, competed in almost everything, from sports to academics. Years later, the rivalry between Northside and Warner Robins is still fierce, especially during football season.
Its a huge deal, said Forrest Antioco, 17, a senior at Northside.
At Northside, students have spent months preparing for this day. They worked after school, sometimes until midnight, constructing props and plastering the school with posters. Staying true to its restaurant theme, the school is covered in re-worded restaurant slogans such as Shake N Bake and Were Winning It. A large menu hangs on the lobby wall with food items such as Demon on a Stick. Hamburger boxes with large, glittery N drawings are tacked to lockers.
Everybodys been bleeding blue, even if youre not into football, 15-year-old Olivia McMillan, a sophomore from Warner Robins, said, referencing the school colors. It really brings everybody in the school together.
Northside Principal Greg Peavy recalls seeing a student who is generally very shy dressed as a pirate on Wednesday as part of spirit week. Thats an example of how beneficial healthy sports rivalries can be, he said.
I think its important they enjoy being in a place where they go to school, he said. If kids are excited about coming to school, they are going to pass classes, they are going to graduate.
But for many students, the week of costumes and pep rallies means nothing if they do not earn bragging rights on the field. Thats why the football players, such as 17-year-old Brock Harrell, a senior at Warner Robins High School, have been practicing extra hard.
It means everything. Its the whole season, he said. Well get to brag about this the rest of our lives if we win.
Carolina Smith, also a senior at Warner Robins, admits that she has several friends who attend Northside. But, the 18-year-old has cut off communication with them this week -- its basically a rule to not socialize with the other side the days before the big game, she said. Your friends become your enemies, she said.
In the Warner Robins lobby, a fake Northside chicken hangs by its neck from the ceiling. Demon posters and emblems cover the hallways, and bright balloons and streamers decorate the ceilings.
Students take this week seriously, they said, and many dedicated their weekends to completing the decorations.
Its the highlight of our senior year, said Zahiri, gesturing to his spirit week costume. I mean, I dressed up as James Bond and came to school. We paint our bodies for this game.