The ties between South Forsyth High School and Lambert High School may be fading, but the motivation to beat one another is not.
The stakes will be higher than ever when the War Eagles and Longhorns meet for the third time in history tonight, as only one team will leave The Horn with its first Region 6-AAAAAA victory and a perfect overall record intact.
Both teams enter the game 3-0 this season, and Lambert quarterback Brock Maxwell believes those fast starts have generated more hype for tonight’s meeting.
Maxwell moved from Cherokee County to attend Lambert as a freshman when Sid Maxwell, his father, took the job as Longhorns’ head football coach. Since Brock Maxwell never lived in Forsyth County prior to when South Forsyth’s school district split to form Lambert’s, the rivalry doesn’t have quite the same meaning for him that it does for many of his teammates, but he expects to feed off their energy.
"I’m probably going to up my tempo just because everyone else is ready for this game," he said. "I actually expect there to be a lot more people here [for the game] than the last two years. [South] opened up 3-0, we’re 3-0, so I think it’ll be a really good game."
Though the rivalry is still in its infancy, Lambert has dominated it to this point, especially on defense. The Longhorns won last year’s meeting 48-7 at War Eagle Field, after defeating South 10-0 at The Horn in 2010.
This year’s senior class of Longhorns is the first that never attended a class at South. Though the rivalry series can no longer be defined by players seeking to beat former high school teammates, there’s now much more on the line in the standings.
In making the jump from Class 4A to Class 6A this season, the two squads face a more rigorous region schedule.
Both have been labeled underdogs to make the playoffs as they battle for one of four postseason slots in a region that includes No. 5-ranked West Forsyth, 2010 state champion Chattahoochee, and Johns Creek and Alpharetta — two teams that each went 9-2 last season.
This year, region wins may be harder to come by than ever.
"This is just what high school football is about," South coach Jeff Arnette said of tonight’s game.
"[I told our players], ‘Just embrace it. We’re both 3-0, it’s the first region game, it’s a huge rivalry. [Not] everybody gets to play in a game this big and this exciting.’"
Lambert and South could very well give each other their toughest test of the season.
Lambert’s first three opponents are a combined 2-6, while the three teams South has played have started a combined 0-7.
The War Eagles have posted more impressive numbers than the Longhorns thus far, winning by an average score of 44-16, but the two teams posted similar numbers against the one common opponent they faced this season.
South defeated Northview 48-19 in the season opener, while Lambert prevailed 55-27 against the Titans last Friday.
"I think it’s two fairly evenly matched teams," Arnette said. "I think the team with the fewest mistakes and the fewest turnovers is probably going to win the game."
Said Sid Maxwell: "A lot of those guys we had [last year] are gone, so we’ve got to have other guys step up and execute.
"It’s just going to be good football to come out and watch. It should be real exciting, a great atmosphere, and the place should be packed."
Lambert and South kick off at 7:30 p.m. at the Longhorns’ field.