On Sept. 18, 1992, the first high school football game between two Forsyth schools was played at Forsyth Central, which previously played 38 years on the gridiron as the lone wolf in the county.
The Bulldogs, led by coach Phil Knight, invited in the South Forsyth War Eagles, who were in just their fourth year of existence under head coach Charlie Cryer. The game ended in a 14-14 tie; nevertheless, a county rivalry was born.
Two years later, South hosted North just days before Halloween. South won 47-6 in the first installment of what is now called, appropriately, “The Civil War.”
Today North will host South for the 18th time. South leads the series 11-6. The Raiders would like nothing more than to shrink the ratio.
The pre-millennium group of Central, North and South has combined to play each other 49 times, which is more standard for a head-to-head series for older schools in other parts of the metro area. The history of rivalries in the county is short, sweet, but growing.
It’s the topic of discussion that South coach Jeff Arnette, who began coaching in 2010, can’t help but bring up on a regular basis. Arnette has gone 7-8 against county opponents as head coach of the War Eagles.
“I think the rivalries here get bigger and bigger as the years go by,” Arnette said. “It’s a fairly young county. I think the teams are getting better, which makes a difference. You come to these games and the excitement is through the roof, and that’s what makes high school football so great.”
The stage is set for Friday night: South, boasting an unblemished record in the early going, is scoring just over 40 points per game and playing shutdown defense. North, still 1-1 in region play after falling on the road to Northview last week, returns home where it has played surprisingly well so far this year—nearly upsetting Cherokee before handling Chattahoochee.
“North is much improved. They got beat by Northview, but they had some opportunities to win that game too if you watch the film. It’s going to be a physical game, a great environment, and we’re looking forward to the challenge,” Arnette said.
Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter said for a rivalry to exist the two teams must “win some and lose some.” That’s the defining aspect of Arnette’s tenure so far, and why he speaks so highly of each county opponent, but there’s more than one formula for a good rivalry.
Proximity counts—that’s why South and Lambert, which has played for just seven seasons, is already as big of a game as any other. The two schools are just four miles away, and many of the players, parents and extended community are familiar with one another.
The next factor in the formula is likeness. West, which began play in 2007, identifies with Lambert because of the shared youth of the schools, as well as the fact the school’s athletic facilities are actually completely identical.
For Winter, the two remaining factors are most important: schools must remain in the same region with one another, which has not worked out for Pinecrest well in its short history. History must be built as well.
“There really is no true rivalry for us yet,” Winter said. “This is our 12th season, so we really haven’t had a chance to develop a rivalry with anyone. When I coached in Indiana the conference there was formed in 1926, so we had tremendous rivalry games. We don’t have that here yet.
“I think that St. Francis is developing into that, same with Kings Ridge or Mount Pisgah. If we stay in the same region for a while, it can happen. But with realignment you never know.”
Because Pinecrest and Kings Ridge’s teams compete at the youth and middle school levels as well, Winter believes that rivalry could continue to blossom if the schools remain in the same league in the future.
The GHSA realignment, which will be announced in January, will also likely move Central into the same region as Lambert, North, South and West, creating a true Forsyth County region.
When Arnette was asked which rivalry stood out the most and why, he couldn’t pinpoint one single opponent.
“You know, I don’t really know the answer to that,” Arnette said. “It seems like whatever game we’re playing at the time, it’s huge to our kids. That’s the way you want it to be.”
Winter keeps a similar mentality. This week Pinecrest hosts 3-0 Trion, a team the Paladins defeated last year, before it also welcomes state champion Mount Paran Christian. Even though both teams reside in the other sub-region of Region 6-A, Winter doesn’t want to overplay the matchups.
“We’re taking it one step at a time. We play well playing at home between the pines. This is a big game. That’s about it,” Winter said.
The Forsyth County News sports staff looks at each high school football team in the county and how they stack up against each other and their biggest rival.
Most Common Opponent: Pickens (29 times)
Record vs. County: 11-22-1 (6-8 vs. North, 5-12-1 vs. South, 0-2 vs. Lambert)
Biggest Rivalry (why?): North Forsyth (proximity, history, competition); Teams do not play this year
Most Common Opponent: Johns Creek (8)
Record vs. County: 11-2 (2-1 vs. West, 4-1 vs. South, 3-0 vs. North, 2-0 vs. Central)
Biggest Rivalry: South Forsyth (proximity); South hosts Lambert Nov. 6
Most Common Opponent: South Forsyth (17)
Record vs. County: 16-25 (8-6 vs. Central, 6-11 vs. South, 2-5 vs. West, 0-3 vs. Lambert)
Biggest Rivalry: West Forsyth, “The Leatherhead Rivalry” (competition); North hosts West Oct. 9
Most Common Opponent: George Walton, Holy Spirit Prep, Mount Vernon Presbyterian (tie, 6)
Record vs. County: N/A
Biggest Rivalry: Kings Ridge (likeness); Kings Ridge hosts Pinecrest Oct. 30
Most Common Opponent: Forsyth Central (18)
Record vs. County: 24-18-1 (11-6 vs. North, 12-5-1 vs. Central, 1-4 vs. Lambert, 0-3 vs. West)
Biggest Rivalry: Lambert (proximity); South hosts Lambert Nov. 6
Most Common Opponent: North Forsyth (7)
Record vs. County: 9-4 (1-2 vs. Lambert, 5-2 vs. North, 3-0 vs. South)
Biggest Rivalry: Lambert (likeness, competition); Lambert hosts West Oct. 23