Three schools within a 20-minute drive of one another will be making the trip to Atlanta on Tuesday for the GHSA state championship games.
Northside, Peach County and Warner Robins are set to represent the Middle Georgia area in the state title games in three different classifications.
Warner Robins and Northside are separated by Watson Boulevard. The rivalry between these two runs deep. Add in Peach County playing both most seasons and you’ve got a three-way rivalry between schools that simply don’t like each other. Yet fans from all sides are planning to support all three teams in an attempt to show unity among a community looking to make a statement that Middle Georgia is the heart of high school football in the state.
Jon Nichols is a die-hard Northside fan. He graduated from Northside in 1982. He had two brothers who graduated before him that played under Coach Conrad Nix. His son also is a Northside graduate. Nichols has been dedicated to cheering for the Eagles his entire life.
“Am I Northside? Absolutely. 100 percent. I hated Warner Robins when I was young,” Nichols said. “Our goal every year was to beat Warner Robins but in 1993 that changed.”
Coach Nix returned to Northside and challenged the team to focus on state titles instead of the crosstown rivalry. That season, Nichols purchased season tickets. He got them in 1993 and has renewed them every year. Since then, the pair of teams have both enjoyed success on the gridiron but the rivalry is still as heated as ever. However, due to the teams being in different classifications, they are able to root for one another and for Peach County, Nichols said.
“As far as I am concerned I don’t want a state championship to be had unless it comes through Houston County, Georgia,” he said. “Or Peach County, cause I consider them to be part of Houston County anyway.”
Ryan Brown is a 2000 Warner Robins High graduate. During his time there, Brown served as the manager for the football team for all four years. Shortly after he graduated, he joined the school’s touchdown club and was a member of its executive board for most of that time. He is a die-hard fan of the Demons, which is why the proposition of cheering for Northside is a battle for him.
“I’ll be cheering for Peach County, I will cheer for Northside but not as hard as I would for Peach County,” he said.” Just because of the rivalry with Northside.”
Stephanie Windon, a teacher at Warner Robins who runs the social media accounts and RobinsFootball.com, says she’s excited for the chance to cheer for all three teams.
“We are all wishing each other good luck and we are all looking forward to what we are calling Middle Georgia day at the Benz,” she said. “I know our fan bus is leaving early to see the second half of the Peach County game and are staying to see the first half of the Northside game.”
She says that the rivalry between Warner Robins and “the blue school” is heated and one that the fans do not take lightly but are willing to put aside for this day.
“We want to beat them in whatever we play them in but we aren’t in the same classification anymore,” Windon said. “We have no problem cheering on our north neighbor in the Benz.”
Jamie Johnson, a member of the Peach County school board, has a connection to two of the Middle Georgia teams competing in the state championship games. He played for Warner Robins before his parents moved into Peach County’s district. He would go on to play for Peach County and graduate from there. He believes that it is important to support all three schools despite the rivalries that exist.
“Of course the games that we play against Northside and Warner Robins always turn into rivalry games and big-ticket-selling games,” he said. “At the end of the day and the end of the season, we do everything we can to support one another.”
The Peach County school board and superintendent took the support for the Trojans and the other two schools a step further.
The school district will close down on Tuesday to ensure that fans, teachers and students are able to get to Atlanta for the Peach County game at 1 p.m. and have the ability to stay all day long for the other games.
“We have always been a community that has traveled well with its football team,” he said “Peach County fans are going to come and so knowing that instead of us trying to create a raucous and with us only having one high school it makes it a lot easier for us to make that decision.”
Chad Campbell, head coach of the Peach County Trojans, says that the Middle Georgia area is ready to make a statement and is hoping all three teams return with titles in hand.
“Middle Georgia plays good football,” he said. “We feel like we play as good a brand of football as anybody. I am proud for Northside and proud for Warner Robins.
“During the season, you are bitter rivals. But when it comes playoff time, you want those teams to do well. You pull for them just for the fact that you want Middle Georgia to be represented well in the state,” he said.