SOUTH FORSYTH — Peachtree Parkway will be the epicenter of the high school football playoffs in Forsyth County tonight as South Forsyth and Pinecrest Academy each play home games.
The schools, located about a mile apart, are the only local ones with teams still alive in the postseason. And officials on both campuses say school spirit is running high in hallways and throughout the community.
Pinecrest has provided every student with a black shirt in the hopes of creating a “black out” and matching the team’s uniforms, said Chris Kane, athletic director at the private Catholic school.
The Paladins will welcome Athens Christian tonight in the opening round of the state Class A playoffs. It’s the first time they’ve ranked high enough to host such a game.
“The spirit club has been promoting it and putting up signs throughout the week,” Kane said. “I think students are doing a tailgate beforehand to really get the spirit up.”
A mile to north on Peachtree Parkway (Hwy. 141), South also is gearing up for a big night.
“The students in our spirit group, SoFo Nation, have worked hard to increase school spirit. They’ve been very intentional about embracing the larger student body,” said Laura Wilson, who is in her first year as South’s principal.
“And it’s not just been football. It’s softball, cross country, the plays at school, the band competitions, it’s been really everything. It’s only as fun and involved as the students are involved.”
The state Class AAAAAA playoffs opened last week. The War Eagles are coming off a win — their first in the playoffs since 2003 — over perennial power Norcross and tonight face Tucker, which won state titles in 2008 and ’11.
There’s been an emphasis at South on including younger students who may not feel as if they belong yet.
“I’ve watched them literally go out and grab the kids in the stadium who aren’t sitting in the student section and put everyone together. That’s a big deal for us,” Wilson said.
She noted the South community of teachers, students, families and friends all come out to cheer on Friday nights. And that spirit and unity extend beyond the field.
“If students are excited about coming to school, whatever drives that excitement, they’re going to come to school and, by default, they’re going to be a better student,” she said. “Those who feel involved in school are going to do better.”
The key is simple, yet grand.
“It pays off in the classroom and all the extracurricular activities,” Wilson said. “It’s just fun to be a part of something bigger than you. And everyone feels like they have contributed.”
Back at Pinecrest, Kane said there is an air of anticipation throughout campus.
“There’s high expectations, and everyone is excited about the possibility [of winning],” said Kane, adding that the feeling is spreading throughout the entire preK-12thgrade school.
“Our head of school has granted the whole school a green and gold spirit day [Thursday] to promote the game. We’ve been asking for volunteers for things like running the concession stands and parking, which is normally done by parents of the team and cheerleaders, to let them focus on the game.
“We’ve had volunteers from the lower school, middle school and even high school parents who aren’t part of the program other than just being a Pinecrest student and family.
“It’s been a huge unifier throughout the community.”