By Zach Shugan | Photo by Zach Edmondson
From the Winnersville Classic to the Battle of Buckhead and the “City Championship” to the “Classic City Championship,” Georgia high school football is rife with intense rivalries young and old.
Pictured above is Lowndes quarterback Jacurri Brown holding the Winnersville Classic Trophy after the Vikings beat longtime rival Valdosta this season.
GEORGIA’S BEST HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL RIVALRIES
Valdosta vs. Lowndes
One of the top games annually in the entire country, the Winnersville Classic features crosstown rivals and perennial powerhouses squaring off against each other in south Georgia. Valdosta, which has 24 state titles and the most wins of any team in the history of high school football, began playing Lowndes in 1968 a couple of years after the school opened. The two have played every year since, with 10 of the meetings taking place with both teams ranked in the top 10. Suffice to say, there’s never a lack of talent or hype when the Wildcats and Vikings get together. Lowndes has won five in a row against Valdosta, including a 21-0 shutout this year, but the Wildcats still lead the all-time series 37-23.
Warner Robins vs. Northside
Simply put, this is one of the most historic and unique rivalries in the state. Warner Robins High School and Northside High School are two miles apart, but since 1964 the schools have shared a stadium, one that has received several upgrades over the years and now holds over 8,000 fans. Though when they face off once a year at their shared stadium, it’s usually packed past capacity. One end zone of the turf field at McConnell-Talbert Stadium is painted red for the Demons, and the other is coated in blue for the Eagles. Warner Robins leads the all-time series 39-25.
Roswell vs. Milton
One of the most heated rivalries in the Atlanta area and the entire state is the one between Milton and Roswell, two large public schools in Fulton County. Located less than four miles apart, the Eagles and Hornets have met 66 times since 1950 and haven’t missed a year since 1999. With both teams off to a hot start this season and currently ranked in the top 10 of Class 7A, this year’s matchup could be the first one with both teams ranked, as well as the de-facto region championship game. Roswell leads the all-time series 38-27–1.
Brookwood vs. Parkview
Arguably the best rivalry in the football hotbed that is Gwinnett County, the Brookwood Broncos and Parkview Panthers first met in 1982 and have played every year since except for a two-year reprieve in 1992 and 1993. Ten of the 39 meetings between the powerhouse programs have taken place with both teams ranked in the top 10. Brookwood leads the all-time series 23-16.
Thomasville vs. Thomas County Central
These teams have more in common than the name Thomas. Both have stadiums on the same street less than two miles apart. They no longer share a region like they did in the 1970s and ’80s since Thomas County Central has grown and moved up a couple classifications, but the rivalry remains one of the state’s best. Thomasville leads the all-time series 28-26.
Clarke Central vs. Cedar Shoals
Dubbed the “Classic City Championship,” Athens’ two public high schools have faced off every year since they first met in 1974. The Gladiators of Clarke Central have controlled the rivalry for the better part of the past 20 years, winning 14 games against the Jaguars since 2002. Clarke Central, which is located steps from the University of Georgia’s campus, leads the all-time series 38-16.
Fitzgerald vs. Irwin County
Who said size matters in rivalries? Fitzgerald High School and Irwin County High School might reside in small towns, but they have one of the best and longest-running rivalries in the state. Ocilla, the home of Irwin County, has a similar population to 7A schools, and the town of Fitzgerald isn’t much larger. Still, this rivalry is intense with quality football, as the two have combined for 34 region titles and four state titles (Irwin County won the Class A Public title in 2018 and 2019, and Fitzgerald was the Class 2A runner-up in 2020). The Purple Hurricanes and Indians have met up every year since 1954, with the Hurricanes leading the all-time series 46-19-3.
Brunswick vs. Glynn Academy
Down on Georgia’s coast, Brunswick and Glynn Academy face off every fall in the “City Championship.” The Pirates and Red Terrors have played annually since their first matchup in 1968. For a long time, the two were in different regions and classifications. That changed in 2014 when the two were placed in the same region of Class 6A, raising the stakes for the yearly battle. Brunswick leads the all-time series 39-37-2.
North Forsyth vs. Forsyth Central
One of the fastest-growing counties in Georgia is Forsyth, directly north of Fulton County. For over 30 years there was only one high school in the county, which was fittingly named Forsyth County High School. With the openings of South Forsyth (1989) and North Forsyth (1994) late in the 20th century, the county’s first high school changed names to Forsyth Central. Since then, West Forsyth (2007) and East Forsyth (2021) were built, along with other more-creatively named schools like Lambert (2009) and Denmark (2018). That’s a brief background on Forsyth County, but which of its rivalries is best? The answer is likely the one between Central and North. The game might not have a unique name like “Civil War” (North vs. South) or “The Leatherhead Rivalry” (North vs. West), but it’s been consistently competitive and always exciting when the county’s oldest school in Central takes on its nearest neighbor in North, which leads the all-time series 12-8.
Effingham County vs. South Effingham
Effingham County played its inaugural season in 1960. Over three decades of growth later, the Savannah-area school split with the creation of South Effingham High School in 1996. The two schools played twice in ‘96 and ‘97, splitting the matchups both years and beginning a rivalry that continues to grow with the area itself. Effingham County leads the all-time series 16-12.
Valdosta vs. Colquitt County
South Georgia is home to multiple legendary rivalries, and Valdosta-Colquitt County is the oldest of them all. The two schools nearly an hourlong drive from each other have met on the gridiron 107 times dating back to 1913. The rivalry picked up added meaning in 2020 when Rush Propst, who was the head coach at Colquitt County from 2008-2018 and led the Packers to two state titles, took over at Valdosta. However, Propst’s tenure lasted only one season due to sanctions that resulted in the Wildcats being banned from the playoffs in 2021. Valdosta leads the all-time series 71-32-4.
Elbert County vs. Hart County
Elbert County and Hart County, two schools northeast of Athens, have been playing each other for a long, long time. The 2020 edition of the historic rivalry was canceled due to COVID, and there have been only two other seasons without the game since the teams first played in 1958. Technically the rivalry has been around since 1921, when the local schools were Elberton and Hartwell. Elbert County leads the all-time series 33-30.
LaGrange vs. Troup County
Right off Interstate 85 near the Georgia-Alabama border are LaGrange and Troup County, two crosstown rivals that share a stadium in downtown LaGrange. The two renewed their rivalry in 1992 after 20 years without playing each other. The Grangers and Tigers have played annually since ‘92, with LaGrange leading the all-time series 20-13. Troup is gaining ground, however, having won five in a row and nine of the meetings since 2010.
Carver (Columbus) vs. Spencer
Despite being a tad lopsided in the win-loss columns, the rivalry between Columbus public schools Carver and Spencer is still a great one. The Tigers of Carver and the Greenwave of Spencer first met in 1962 and have played every year since except 1978. Carver has lost to the Greenwave only once in the 21st century and leads the all-time series 46-12-1.
Brookstone vs. St. Anne Pacelli
All rivalries are fun, but nothing adds to the fun like a quirky trophy for the winner. Brookstone and St. Anne Pacelli, two private schools in Columbus, face off every year for the BrooCelli jug. Painted half-blue for Brookstone and half-red for Pacelli, the jug features scores from previous years. Brookstone leads the all-time series 33-16-1.
Burke County vs. Thomson
These two Augusta-area schools first met in 1987 and have played every year since, except 2006-07. Both have had their turns reeling off consecutive wins against the other. Prior to Thomson’s win in 2020, the Bears had won three straight games over the Bulldogs and 10 of the previous 13 matchups. Entering the 2021 edition of the rivalry on Oct. 15, Burke County leads the all-time series 20-17.
Lincoln County vs. Washington-Wilkes
The rivalry between these two prominent Class A Public schools in east Georgia is one of the best in the state. Located less than 20 miles apart, the Red Devils and Tigers have played each other every year since their first matchup in 1970. The teams have played each other as members of the same region 19 times, including the last four years. Lincoln County leads the all-time series 34-19.
Charlton County vs. Clinch County
Charlton and Clinch have one of the longest-running and most competitive rivalries in the state. The two schools near the Georgia-Florida border have split their 61 meetings since 1962, including a tie in 1969. Most of their matchups have come as region foes, too, including all of the last 12 years. In 2018, they met in the state playoffs for the first time, with Clinch County winning the second-round matchup and going on to claim its eighth state title.
Westminster vs. Lovett
Not to be confused with the Battle of Buck Head Creek, the Battle of Buckhead features two prestigious private schools that have been around for over 60 years. Located three miles apart in the northwest Atlanta neighborhood of Buckhead, the Wildcats and Lions first met in 1974 and played every year from 1994-2019. They were scheduled to open the 2020 season against each other but COVID ruined that. Westminster won 17-7 over Lovett in 2021 and leads the all-time series 21-12.
Grayson vs. Archer
The rivalry between Grayson and Archer may not have the history of some of the others on this list, but the quality is undeniable. Grayson opened in 2000, and Archer followed suit in 2009 about 10 minutes down the road. Although Grayson leads the all-time series 10-2, there have been five meetings with both teams ranked in the top 10, so there are always a lot of eyes on this up-and-coming rivalry between two Gwinnett County powers.