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Rivalry games between high school football players in the Athens area in 2024

Rivalry games between high school football players in the Athens area in 2024

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With the realignment of the region, high school football teams in the Athens area will face new scheduling challenges in 2024.

But the staples remain.

Everyone looks forward to games. The ones that fans and students give their all for. Maybe you smear paint on your chest to form a word as you stand next to your friends in the stands, too excited to feel the chill as the sun goes down. Or maybe you make signs with glitter and permanent marker and bring cowbells and horns to taunt your opponents. The nerve-wracking games that keep the hallways buzzing for an entire week, that even the principal counts down to.

Sometimes it’s more than that, like regional titles or a place in the state playoffs. Sometimes it’s just about bragging about the titles you can win next year. Either way, these are games that create lifelong memories that you might even tell your kids about.

There are still 36 days until kickoff. You still have time to buy your school spirit, whether in blue, gold, green, red or white.

Here’s a look at some of the notable rivalry games on the Athens Area high school football schedule in 2024.

Here are 14 Athens-area high school football rivalry games to watch in 2024

Cedar Shoals at Clarke Central

Thursday, August 15

The annual Classic City Championship has been a popular clash of gladiators for the past five years. Coaches David Perno and Leroy Ryals know the game quietly decides who will be crowned King of Athens, and this year the Jaguars will be especially hungry – the last time Cedar Shoals beat Clarke Central was 17-7 in 2018.

Last year, Clarke Central won 28-7. This year, however, the Gladiators will be without key players from 2023, including Bartez Gillespie Jr., Jaylen Jackson and Kendrick Curry, who have all since graduated. Can senior Corey Watkins Jr. keep the momentum going with the new players?

North Oconee in Oconee County

Friday, August 16

These rivals face off each year in the Hog Mountain Bowl, with North Oconee as the reigning champion for the second year in a row. Much like the Classic City Championship, this game quietly decides the next year’s crown in Bogart, and both schools are strong teams.

Last year, the Titans won 29-12. Although they lost Max Wilson, KJ Moon, Tate Titshaw and Jack Kelly to graduation, they have a UGA freshman on the roster in senior Landon Roldan, junior dual-sport phenom Khamari Brooks and junior quarterback Harrison Faulkner who are well-equipped to take on the challenge.

North Oconee in Madison County

Friday, October 4

Last year, Roldan was a problem for Madison County. The speedy wide receiver scored three touchdowns in the first half to help the Titans to a 38-8 win over the Red Raiders, including a 95-yard touchdown that saw him run nearly halfway down the field to the end zone. And now that he’s committed to UGA, his confidence has only grown. Madison County hasn’t come close to winning this rivalry since the 2017 victory.

Jefferson in North Oconee

Friday, September 13

These two teams haven’t met since 2021, when North Oconee won 11-6. Since then, both have reached the top level in their own way. Last year, Jefferson won the Region 8-5A title and made it to the state championship semifinals, while North Oconee won the Region 8-4A title and made it to the state championship quarterfinals.

Oconee County at Clarke Central

Friday, August 23

The Warriors had the upper hand over the Gladiators between 2020 and 2022. Last year, however, they were overwhelmed and Clarke Central won 38-31 after a wild fourth quarter, marking its best start since 2019. Watkins Jr. was a key contributor to the 2023 win and returns as a senior this fall.

Athens Academy in stores

Friday, September 20

The Tigers and Spartans are in the same classification again this season. This time, however, Commerce has a different head coach. The last time the teams met in 2020, the Tigers were led by Michael Brown. Now, with Mark Hollars at the helm, coach Josh Alexander has a different challenge to lead his Spartans against. Not to mention, Hollars’ top two players, who each rushed for over 1,000 yards last year – Tysean Wiggins and Jaiden Daniels – are returning as seniors.

Apalachee near Winder-Barrow

Friday, September 13

The Bulldogs and Wildcats have played each other every year since 2004, with Winder-Barrow leading the overall standings the past five years at 13-7. However, this is the first season they’ve played in the same region since 2019. Last year, Winder-Barrow defeated Apalachee 28-7 to open the season.

Jefferson in Oconee County

Friday, November 1st

The coaching connection is what raises the stakes. Ben Hall and Travis Noland previously played each other’s positions, Hall for four years at Jefferson and Noland for seven years at Oconee County. Last year, the Dragons beat the Warriors 44-7 and in 2022, the first year with the coaching change, the Warriors went just 9-7. The final game of the regular season could have a big impact on the region.

Stephens County near Jefferson

Friday, September 6

Noland also spent nine seasons in Stephens County before moving to Oconee County. In his first three years in Stephens County, they won Region 8-3A titles, while the Dragons won two regional championships and made it to the state semifinals in just three years in Jefferson.

Loganville in Oconee County

Friday, September 6

This rivalry hasn’t been seen since the ’70s and ’80s. The last time they met was in 1995 when the Warriors went 30-0 under John Barnette. The rivalry has been largely one-sided, as Oconee County lost to Loganville just once in 16 meetings in 1994 – there was also a tie in 1972. This year will see a revival as a new generation of Warriors and Red Devils take to the field.

Banks County at Commerce

Friday, October 25

Commerce and Banks County have played each other 36 times, with Commerce winning 34 of those meetings. The Tigers have only lost in 1992 (28-0) and 1990 (29-24), and have now won 19 straight games against the Leopards. Banks County is showing improvement, and with a new coach at the helm, the Tigers will have to be extra careful this year to avoid an upset.

Social Circle in Oglethorpe County

Friday, August 16

Oglethorpe County and Social Circle have been going back and forth for years. The last four meetings have gone to Social Circle, although the overall series record is 13-11 for Oglethorpe County. Last year, the Patriots lost 14-10 to the Redskins. There seems to be a pattern with the Patriots. So the last time the Patriots won was 2019. Before that, it was 2014. Well, it’s been five years now, so it sounds like they’re in for another win.

George Walton at Athens Christian

Friday, September 20

Now that the Eagles are returning to the GIAA, they will face familiar opponents. One of those opponents is George Walton Academy, which left the GHSA during the 2022 reclassification. The Eagles will be completely revamped after a 0-10 performance in 2023 and also have a new coach in Mike Morris. The last time the teams played each other in 2021, they were both GHSA members, and Athens Christian won 56-20.

Athens Academy in Banks County

Friday, October 4

These teams have a history spanning two decades, with Athens Academy just ahead of Banks County at 11-8-1 overall. Last year the Spartans went 56-27 and the year before that 70-13. Alexander was prepared for the Leopards’ last era under Jay Reid, and it’s safe to assume he will be again when he takes his team into Todd Winters territory in October.