Make plans for Battle for the Troops II
Fayette County is a very rich sports environment. In addition to beautiful golf courses, a nice tennis facility, excellent parks and a cart path system in Peachtree City that gives walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists an awesome place to go, the high school sports scene blesses us with some terrific rivalries.
The oldest rivalry is Fayette County vs. McIntosh and, depending on the sport and the year, this still produces some great games. Starr's Mill and Whitewater have built a good rivalry on the football field with several of their contests coming down to the final play. There is one rivalry that stands above them all though, at least in the 21st century, and it is Starr's Mill vs. McIntosh in soccer. The girls game is much more friendly of a rivalry, after all many of the players on both sides are teammates during club soccer season, while the boys game is intense. Many of the players on both teams have grown up together, playing on either the same club team or in club matches since they were knee high to a grasshopper. Most likely, the rosters of these squads are friendly with each other 364 days a year, but there will be few smiles tomorrow night. And after the game, one of these two teams probably won't be smiling for a few days. It's a good thing spring break starts at the end of the school day on Friday.
What makes this rivalry so intense? Well, for starters, both teams are highly ranked in the same classification. Not just this year (Starr's Mill is fourth, McIntosh is fifth), but every year. Plus, the winner of this game often either wins the region or, as is the case this year, enters the region playoffs as a top seed.
Making things more interesting this year is the fact that Starr's Mill beat McIntosh in the state finals last year on penalty kicks, after it appeared to many that McIntosh had won it in overtime. They took a indirect kick and the ball went in the goal. The officials said the ball hadn't touched anyone on its way into the net (which it has to on an indirect kick) and others swore it had. The difference between being a champion and a runner-up was a fingertip or a shin pad.
Tomorrow's game won't decide a state championship, but it will be good for bragging rights and it will likely put the loser on the road against a region champion in the second round when the state playoffs roll around. As prizes go, it's a good one.
And all of this shouldn't underscore the girls game (Starr's Mill is ranked second and McIntosh is ranked fifth) which will also affect region standings and where teams are seeded in the region playoffs. Whitewater's girls have the top spot in the subregion and this battle for the second seed should be good.
If you need one more reason, how about this? It is a fundraiser for Herobox which supports U.S. troops fighting overseas.
The games will be played at McIntosh. The girls game starts at 5:30 p.m. and the boys game starts after the girls game ends. The rain will (most likely) be gone by then and the field will be nice and muddy, which just adds to the drama.
If you like soccer, you don't even have to love it, you will have a great time at these games. Don't miss it.