Regardless of the name, tonight’s showdowns pitting Walton against Hillgrove at 6 p.m. and Lassiter against McEachern at 9 p.m. at Walter Cantrell Stadium will have a chance to join the 2012 games as instant classics.
The two-year doubleheader agreement between the four schools of east and west Cobb County started last season. Lassiter held off Hillgrove 37-29 after building a 37-point halftime lead, while Walton edged McEachern in the nightcap, 37-35, on Anthony Price’s 43-yard field goal.
McEachern athletic director Jimmy Dorsey is excited about tonight’s matchups even if the name of the event doesn’t really have an official title.
“It’s had a few different names since we started talking about it,” he said. “We had ‘The Battle of I-75,’ ‘The East-West Classic,’ ‘The Big Chicken Classic’ and ‘The Battle of the Big Chicken,’ those are the ones that stuck. Sponsors and advertisers liked ‘Battle of the Big Chicken,’ they thought it was catchy. But, the schools and some fans didn’t think that was exciting enough and went with ‘Battle of I-75.’
“As organizers, we haven’t really discussed it, but we should have. We couldn’t get to a real consensus on it last year, but started calling it ‘Battle of I-75.’ We just kind of settled on that, and I guess we’re going with it again this year.”
Tonight’s event, however, will be much different than last year’s. Instead of being shown on Georgia Public Broadcasting, CSS will broadcast both games live over its 12-state regional area. Also, McEachern recently installed new artificial turf and a new videoboard — billed as the largest high school videoboard in the country — to help enhance the experience for players on the field and for the fans in attendance.
“TV and sponsorships really help draw the magnitude of this event,” Dorsey said. “CSS is calling it ‘The Battle of the Big Chicken.’ They like that. But to have these games shown in 12 states is good publicity for the participating schools.
“The videoboard opens up a whole new world for the fans. We’ll have instant replay so, if you miss a play or want to see it again, we can show that. We also have monitors at the concession stands so if you’re getting something to eat or drink, you can watch the game while you’re in line. Everything just enhances the overall experience.”
McEachern tested the videoboard during its preseason scrimmage against East Paulding, and Dorsey was “blown away” by the results.
“It was awesome,” he said. “The new sound system and quality and clarity of the picture is as good as if you were watching at home on your HD TV. We’re anxious to show it off to everybody.”
The videoboard and regional broadcast are two of the changes made to the event this season. Another change was the start time of the final game of the doubleheader, which was scheduled for 8:30 p.m. last year.
“Things went smoothly last time, but the games ended really late,” Dorsey said. “Unfortunately, we had an injury in the first game which delayed everything by about 45 minutes. It was a serious injury, and we couldn’t take a chance on the player’s health, so we did what we had to do to stabilize him.
“We also had some issues with TV and we were off the air for a while. Hopefully, we’ve worked through those things this time and we’re optimistic that we can stay on time.”
Since the agreement among the schools lasts for two years, organizers will evaluate the event moving forward following tonight’s games.
“We met as a group last spring and want to see how this thing goes (tonight) before we decide on matchups for next year,” Dorsey said. “Financially, everybody gives up two home games — one last year and one this year — and we don’t want the schools to miss out on revenues.
“We split the profits evenly, so we’ll see how it goes. It’s a new concept, and if the schools are getting out of it what they hoped they would, then it will be a group decision on how to proceed in the future.”
The Georgia High School Association’s two-year realignment schedule could also factor into how the event continues.
“There may not be room on the schedule if the GHSA chooses to put 10 teams in one of our regions,” Dorsey added. “If not, then I think this will continue to work if we have really good teams going at it.”
Roughly 10,000 people came to Cantrell Stadium to witness last year’s games. Dorsey expects several more tonight since the event has had good word of mouth and last year’s contests were so competitive.
“Our goal is to get anywhere from 12,000 to 14,000 between the two games,” he said. “If we can draw that many people, it will be hard for schools to turn that down going forward.”