The Northside Eagles and Warner Robins Demons will face off on the football field for the 56th time on Friday night, and the GHSA Region 2-AAAAA championship will be on the line for both schools.
Northside enters as the top-ranked team in Class AAAAA at a perfect 8-0, 5-0 in 2-AAAAA action. Warner Robins is just a single game back at 7-1, 4-1 in 2-AAAAA.
The Eagles have won three in a row in the series and 10 of 12 overall dating back to 2001, including a 35-28 victory a year ago. Despite the recent success, Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler has come to expect the unexpected when these two rivals get together.
In this game theres no telling what its going to come down to, Kinsler said. Its come down to everything from a turnover to a kick and all kinds of things. Its one of those games where you really dont know what to expect. You always have that unknown factor, and thats why its such a difficult game. Every little thing can make such a huge difference.
Play makers abound for both schools, but the game could rest on the shoulders of two senior quarterbacks in Northsides Marcus Ivory and the Demons Caden Johnston.
Ivory will be making his first start in this rivalry after taking over for the versatile Glenn Smith who will still see plenty of the football for the Eagles, while Johnston will face the large Northside defense for a second straight year.
Johnston played in the game last year, so hes been in the fire, Warner Robins head coach Bryan Way said. He knows what to expect, and were going to count on him to make good decisions with the ball.
Ivory has done a good job for us all year, Kinsler said. Hes got a level head about him, and hes trying to keep things in perspective. The most important thing he has to focus on is just executing our offense.
In a rivalry as long and hotly contested as the one between these intracity foes, the distractions surrounding the game are vast. Managing the distractions away from the field is something both coaches concern themselves with headed into the game.
Theres so many distractions this week with the pep rallies and the bands and the students talking about it, Kinsler said. Were just going to try to keep our kids focused on the job at hand, and theyll be focused. Its just a challenge as a coaching staff to keep that stuff away from your kids as much as you can and keep them occupied on whats going to take place between the white lines.
Way had similar sentiments.
We make sure kids understand that all the hoopla surrounding the game is really for everybody but the players, Way said. Weve got to focus on our job, and thats preparing for the football game. We want them to be excited about the ball game and not necessarily all the things surrounding it.
A capacity crowd is expected once again at McConnell-Talbert Stadium for the game every football fan in the city of Warner Robins talks about all year long with a championship hanging in the balance.
A region championship is on the line, and its a huge ballgame, Kinsler said.
Contact Ryan Jordan at email@example.com.