County matchups can be pivotal for Bibb, Houston football teams
Houston County teams have plenty of tradition, so their intra-county games are typically about pride and perhaps pivotal region implications.
Similar games in Bibb County add a couple of more layers of importance as games featuring two Bibb County teams can also help build the sport in the county and bring together the community.
There are 21 such games this season involving Bibb County’s 10 GHSA teams, with Central playing the most at six, including four non-region games. FPD, Howard, Mount de Sales, Rutland and Westside all play four games against Bibb County teams, while Northeast, Southwest, Stratford and Tattnall Square all play three.
All of Howard’s games against Bibb County teams are non-region games.
“We’re not getting there yet. We’re not there,” Howard head coach Barney Hester said of a comparison between Bibb County football and Houston County football. “We’re so spread out, but Houston County is getting spread out, too. The tradition that they have had for a long time is still evident in those power schools. … I think we’re doing something special in Macon. I really do. I think it is changing. You see Westside having a great season last year. Southwest, not really out of the blue because (head coach Joseph) Dupree has done a great job with those guys, but they came up and had a great year. Northeast has always been competitive and in the playoffs. Central had another good year last year.
“I think it’s changing, but we have to get the community more involved. Our community’s not as involved as it is in Houston County. Once you get to the point where we fill these stadiums, I think you’ll see it change.”
The games’ importance has grown in recent seasons with FPD, Mount de Sales, Stratford and Tattnall Square joining the GHSA and now competing with the Bibb County schools on the field. There are two of those games this season, and both — Central vs. FPD and Howard vs. Mount de Sales — will be played Aug. 26 at Mercer in the second annual Macon Touchdown Club Kickoff Classic.
“I think it’s important that athletics is still one of those things where we can all get in the same place and not worry about stuff that a lot of people in the world seem to be worried about now days,” FPD head coach Greg Moore said. “Football gives us a venue to do that where we can just go play. Nobody cares that it’s public or private or who’s from north Macon or south Macon or the middle of the city or whatever. The kids sure don’t. When you put the ball on the tee, they’re just playing ball. That’s why I’m so thankful that we get to be a part of it because it’s a big event.
“It’s an honor to play Central. I grew up watching Central play at Porter Stadium. So it’s a special deal for all of us, and we’re really pleased to be a part of it. I think it’s fantastic.”
The rivalries in Houston County are certainly fantastic and have been for some time. There are six intra-county games this season involving the five GHSA teams, and the season starts with the biggest of all: Northside vs. Warner Robins on Aug. 18 at McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
That will be the 60th matchup between the Eagles and Demons, with Warner Robins holding a 34-25 advantage. The Demons and Eagles are no longer in the same region, or even in the same classification, so they are opening their seasons against each other for the second straight year.
“It’s been unusual. It’s kind of a two-edged sword,” Northside head coach Kevin Kinsler said. “It’s a great way for the fans to get the season kicked off, but at the same time, your kids haven’t quite been battle-tested yet, and you throw them into the fire in a big way right off the bat.”
The Eagles close their season for the second straight year with another big county rivalry, hosting Houston County in Region 1-6A play. That is the third game for the Bears against a Houston County rival, as they also play Veterans and Warner Robins.
“No doubt, one of our mission statements for our program is we want to win our county,” Houston County head coach Ryan Crawford said. “That’s a huge part of our mission statement for our program: our county, our region and then the state level. It starts in our county, and I tell our guys all the time that you don’t have to go far to find it in our town. It’s important to this town. Our community supports it. Our school board makes it important and not just football but all athletics and all the stuff outside of school.
“So, yeah, it’s important. These kids grow up with it, and they don’t have to go far to find it. And it motivates kids to say, ‘Hey, I better get going when it’s time to go.’ ”
This is the second season that Houston County and Veterans are sharing Freedom Field, leaving Warner Robins and Northside to share McConnell-Talbert Stadium.
Houston County has won the first three games with Veterans, which played its “home” games in its first six seasons at Perry.
“I think it can get better and better. I think if there’s one game our kids get excited about now, it’s the Houston County game,” Veterans head coach David Bruce said. “That used to be the Perry game. We’re still excited about playing Perry, but now that it’s not in the same region, it’s kind of lost a little of the flavor. Houston County, shoot, we’re only three or four miles apart, and the kids all know each other.
“And Warner Robins, now that they’re in the same region with us, I think that rivalry’s going to grow, too. So we’re excited about the rivalries we’ve got here in the city.”
That’s what the Bibb County coaches hope to continue to build as their programs continue to grow.
“They’re huge. Any time you have intra-city games they’re big because you want to have the bragging rights and walk the halls and walk the streets, so they’re very huge,” Dupree said. “For a program builder, and where we are as a program, we’re trying to win every game possible, and winning the intra-city games is very critical and important to the program. So we’re definitely trying to win those games.”
Bibb County matchups
The schedule of Bibb County matchups for each GHSA team during the 2017 season:
Central (6): Aug. 26 vs. FPD (at Mercer); Sept. 1 vs. Howard; Sept. 8 vs. Southwest; Sept. 15 vs. Northeast; *Oct. 19 vs. Rutland; *Oct. 27 vs. Westside.
FPD (4): Aug. 26 vs. Central (at Mercer); *Oct. 13 at Stratford; *Oct. 20 at Tattnall Square; *Oct. 27 Mount de Sales.
Howard (4): Aug. 18 vs. Westside; Aug. 26 vs. Mount de Sales (at Mercer); Sept. 1 vs. Central; Sept. 8 vs. Rutland.
Mount de Sales (4): Aug 26. vs. Howard (at Mercer); *Sept. 29 Stratford; *Oct. 6 Tattnall Square; *Oct. 27 at FPD.
Northeast (3): Sept. 1 vs. Rutland; Sept. 15 vs. Central; *Oct. 6 vs. Southwest.
Rutland (4): Sept. 1 vs. Northeast; Sept. 8 vs. Howard; *Oct. 6 vs. Westside; *Oct. 19 vs. Central.
Southwest (3): Aug. 25 vs. Westside; Sept. 8 vs. Central; *Oct. 6 vs. Northeast.
Stratford (3): *Sept. 29 at Mount de Sales; *Oct. 13 FPD; *Oct. 27 at Tattnall Square.
Tattnall Square (3): *Oct. 6 at Mount de Sales; *Oct. 20 FPD; *Oct. 27 Stratford.
Westside (4): Aug. 18 vs. Howard; Aug. 25 vs. Southwest; *Oct. 6 vs. Rutland; *Oct. 27 vs. Central.
Houston County matchups
The schedule of Houston County matchups for each GHSA team during the 2017 season:
Houston County (3): Sept. 8 vs. Veterans; Sept. 15 Warner Robins; *Oct. 27 at Northside.
Northside (2): Aug. 18 vs. Warner Robins; *Oct. 27 Houston County.
Perry (1): Sept. 22 Veterans.
Veterans (3): Sept. 8 vs. Houston County; Sept. 22 at Perry; *Oct. 27 Warner Robins.
Warner Robins (3): Aug. 18 vs. Northside; Sept. 15 at Houston County; *Oct. 27 at Veterans.