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Newton County prepares for classic showdown
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In less than 12 hours and counting, Homer Sharp Stadium will be rocking - filled to the brim with thousands of fans representing two local football teams.

If past games between Eastside and Newton are any indication, expect approximately 5,000 to 7,000 fans in attendance.

After the game, the county maintenance department will no doubt have its hands full regarding cleanup duties.

Joe Gheesling, principal of Newton High School, has been associated with football most of his life, as either a player or coach, and admits that this particular game has "truly evolved into a sports event."

"Sharp Stadium is the place to be (tonight)," said Gheesling. "Although intense and competitive, I feel that this is a healthy rivalry that is beneficial to both schools and the county in general. It has done much to engender a high level of school spirit and community support for our schools." 

Last year, the Eagles edged the Rams, 21-20, in thrilling fashion.

For Eastside head coach Rick Hurst, it will be a sigh of relief after the game, regardless of the outcome.

"It means a lot because it's our first game," said Hurst earlier this month. "Our goal (is) to win each game every week, but not look past that. So, we want to make sure that we're ready for Newton, but we don't want to get overwhelmed by it. We need to know that we (have) nine games left and we've got to win those because those are the ones that really, really count. We don't want our kids to throw everything out the window if something happens; it's not in our favor."

Newton first-year head coach Nick Collins is optimistic about the game. Although he is the new kid on the block, he understands the importance of the matchup.

"The way you get things accomplished quickly is to get favored locally," said Collins earlier this month, "and the only way you're going to do that is to beat your crosstown (teams)."

Although kickoff does not commence until 7:30 p.m., fans should anticipate arriving to the stadium early in order to get a seat, since it is expected to be standing room only. Gates open at 6:30 p.m., but fans are encouraged to get in line as early as 6 p.m. since the game will more than likely be sold out.

"You can expect that if the weather is good not to be able to turn around," laughed Dennis Roddenberry, Eastside athletic director. "That's how many people will be at this game."

Last year, several attendees enjoyed tailgating parties - minus the alcohol - which included grilling out and catching up with friends and family alike.

Roddenberry has been attending the rivalry ever since he stepped on the scene in Newton County.

"It's going to be tough getting in there," said Roddenberry. "(Tonight) will be tight trying to get everybody in the stadium."

Despite it being a crosstown game, Georgia High School rules states that the stadium must keep fans separated. Since it is a home game for Newton, Eastside fans must sit on the much smaller visitor side; however, it alternates each year.

Last year, the school administration decided it would be best to create a divided area separating the opposing fans, which included their own separate concessions and bathrooms.

According to Roddenberry, there have not been any major confrontations or disputes among fans since the teams have been competing against each other.

"I can't recall any bad situations happening," said Roddenberry. "Hopefully, it will be just a really good game with lots of excitement."