The cheerleaders, the band, the enthusiastic crowds — high school football is back.
The season got under way last night when West Forsyth visited Gainesville. The remaining five other local schools open their campaigns tonight.
The slate includes North Forsyth at Forsyth Central, Northview at South Forsyth, Lambert at Etowah and Kings Ridge at Pinecrest.
While a Thursday game is unusual for varsity football, West cheerleader Quincy Guynn was ready.
“It’s a little different, but we’re all super excited about it,” she said. “I think people are excited to see that they don’t have to wait an extra day to come see us play.
Quite possibly the biggest game in the county this week is the return of the Central-North rivalry.
The Raiders and Bulldogs met annually from 1996-2007, with North winning six of the 11 contests before reclassification forced them to discontinue the series.
North assistant football coach Russ Ivey, who played for the Raiders from 2002-05, has never lost to Central.
“I’ve talked to the kids to get them excited about it, because none of the ones we have were here for the last time we played,” Ivey said.
“We’re just trying to say, ‘Hey guys, that’s five miles down the road. If you lose to them, you’re going to hear about it all year.’
“It’s fun bringing the [rivalry] back. You want those bragging rights.”
She’ll be on the sidelines rallying behind Central’s football players, but cheerleader Abby Williams said it’s a little different because “I have a lot of friends that go to North.”
“But I’m excited to cheer against my friends who are cheerleaders at North,” said Williams, her squad’s captain. “We’re a family at Central and I love the atmosphere and I just love Central.”
Williams, who foresees a Bulldog victory, is excited for Central to “show what we’ve got.”
Cheerleaders at South also have been busy this week leading up to the first game. The squad painted signs and tried to generate enthusiasm, said junior Macy Sarver.
“We wear all of our spirit-wear with beads and high socks and football jerseys … I think it really spreads the word if anybody forgot,” she said. “They look around at how many people at school are in South gear and that even more people are going to the game than they thought and that they should be a part of it.
“It’s the first kickoff of football season and it’s the first time you can really hang out with your friends at a big school function and we have a bunch of clubs that tailgate in our parking lot.”
For the first time, South will have the blue crew — a spirit squad of male junior and seniors who will dress up and stand along the fence cheering for the War Eagles football team as they face Northview from nearby Johns Creek.
High school football is about more than just the game, it’s also about the music. And Lambert tuba player James Heideman can’t wait for the Stampede band to “blast out the entire stadium”at Etowah in nearby Cherokee County.
“We’ve been practicing long, hard, in the rain, in the sunshine, day and night to go there and push the stands back with our sound,” Heideman said. “We’re there for the football team, but we’re there to get them pumped up.
“And when they hear us blaring our notes and getting the stands riled up, I’m sure they’ll feel ready to go and play.”
Band members have been wearing Lambert gear to show off school pride during the week. And at pep rallies, Heideman said, “We’re always the loudest section.”
It’s not just Forsyth’s five public high schools that are ready for football season.
Pinecrest Academy, a private school in south Forsyth that participates in the Georgia High School Association, plays host to Kings Ridge from Alpharetta tonight.
Jimmy Strom, senior quarterback and co-captain, said the new coaching staff has gotten the team “all fired up.”
The Paladins are eager to make a name for themselves. This, Strom said, is the year the team hopes it will step up “and impress a lot of people.”
“There’s a really positive excited feel to the team this year,” he said. “Everyone’s really pumped up. Everyone’s working hard. Everyone’s practicing real well. The line is looking good,” he said. “We’re ready to go.
“And all the fans, they’ve seen how hard we’ve worked and they’re excited too.”