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Posted: August 24, 2007 3:00 a.m.

Rival teams prepare for open press conference

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Just like any NFL organization takes the podium on Saturday before each game to address the media, both the Eastside and Newton football programs will do the same next week before their season-opener against each other.

A press conference detailing the Eastside vs. Newton crosstown matchup will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday at The Oaks Course.

The event is open to anyone free of charge. It will include players and coaches representing both teams who will share their views toward the game and the importance of a high school football rivalry, among other topics.

"It's that hometown rivalry feeling that you get, and this year is going to be special," said Virgil Lewis, president of the Newton High School Booster Club. "It means a lot (and) it's going to be an exciting game."

Originally, the idea came from Newton first-year head coach Nick Collins, but Lewis has taken the horns in hopes of creating more exposure for both programs.

"I've watched that tape (until) my eyes have gone crossed," laughed Collins, referring to the 2006 matchup between Newton and Eastside.

In an effort to generate more attention, Lewis has already contacted 11Alive's Fred Kalil and FoxTV's Buck Lanford among others in hopes of having the event named Game of the Week, which would eventually air on television.

With the announcement of the media forum comes proof that this particular game is no ordinary battle on the gridiron.

In fact, it's quite the opposite: This game means everything to not only Eastside and Newton, but also to all of the fans who support the programs year-in and year-out.

Bar none, it will be the most competitive and exciting game east of Atlanta, which is saying quite a lot considering all of the talent scattered throughout the area.

For Eastside head coach Rick Hurst, his 21-20 win over Newton last year was his first victory - a memory he will always treasure and never forget. However, it was a different story in 2005, when the Rams won 27-20.

According to Hurst, his squad "finally understands this game is not the world" because if the Eagles fall, they "still have nine more games to play, which are the ones that really count."

Without question those statements ring true. At the same time, the victory propelled the Eagles to a solid 5-5 record in 2006 - a remarkable improvement considering they had previously lost 20 consecutive games before topping Newton on that fateful evening last year.

"If you can't beat Eastside and Alcovy, then you're not going to get a whole lot done around here," said Collins.

But until he actually takes the field against Hurst and company, only then will the rookie head coach understand what this game really means to so many folks.

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