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The Raiders trailed by two touchdowns with just minutes remaining in the football game.
But North Forsyth High School’s cheerleaders weren’t about to watch their team fall to neighboring Dawson County without a fight.
“So we got the crowd really, really loud and pumped up,” said cheerleader Courtney Kelly of that contest in 2012. “We ended up winning that game and I think the energy definitely helped.”
Forsyth Central High cheerleader Elizabeth Beall said the energy flows throughout their stadium on game night, thanks to the help of the student section dubbed the Central Crazies.
“We actually help ourselves because the football players look for the spirit and we’re the ones who are cheering from the [excitement] from the Central Crazies and the Central Crazies are the ones getting pumped up from us,” she said.
That spirit will be high tonight, as Central and North renew their rivalry in the season opener for both teams at Coal Mountain.
All of Forsyth County’s teams are in action tonight, with the other games featuring: Lambert playing host to Etowah; West Forsyth welcoming Gainesville; South Forsyth traveling to Northview; and Pinecrest visiting King’s Ridge.
At Central and North, the school’s cheerleaders have been working all summer on banners and new cheers for the big game.
“We have a lot of friends at North, so it’s like this rivalry that’s not mean, but it’s just fun. It’s fun if we win or lose,” said Central cheerleader Cayden Chesnut.
“Obviously, it’s going to be a disappointment [if we lose], but it will still be fun.”
North cheerleader McKenzie Rutan said any rivalry, or intra-county game, always draw more rowdy crowds.
“It’s almost a competition between student sections. It’s not even like who wins the football game, it’s who has the biggest student section, who’s the loudest,” she said.
And it’s not just the student sections, said fellow North cheerleader Ryann McGonigie.
“When something really exciting happens on the field, the parents get involved,” she said. “And they participate in our crowd cheers.
“People get way more excited [in rivalry games], because when you’re playing against a team you don’t really know ... if you lose, you’re never going to hear from them,” she said.
The energy has been high at Central all week, said cheerleader Sydney Giddens.
“It’s just so much fun because we’re all getting so pumped up about it. It’s just a good week,” she said. “It’s just fun to be at the games when there’s so much spirit. Our spirit section ... it’s just so much fun to be in front of them.”
Central and North first met in 1996, playing annually until 2007, when the series was discontinued due to realignment.
North holds a 7-6 advantage in the rivalry, including a hard-fought 10-7 victory last year.
Tonight, Central is looking to settle the score — and the series — on the field.
“We all have a lot of friends at North,” said Central cheerleader Jordan Beaty. “So this is a rivalry that’s not mean.”
North cheerleader Rilee Racine said such games are when her school is “most united.”
“I don’t think it really feels like Friday night lights until you can feel the energy in the stadium,” she said. “And when the football players feel it, I think it just pumps them up that much more.”