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For Clarke Central High School, There's No Place Like Dome

Friday, December 11, 2009 , Posted by Christopher Byrne at 11:16 AM, under

When I was in high school in the Southern Tier of New York State, we were the happiest when our high school basketball team might make it to the Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship game. If somehow we made it to the New York State Section IV Championship game it was icing on the cake. It was not so much about being in the game, but the fact that the team would get to play in the 4,727 seat Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena. Never in our wildest dreams did we ever expect to experience what the tradition-laden Clarke Central High School Gladiators (Athens, GA) will experience tonight: playing in the 75,000 seat Georgia Dome for the Georgia High School Association AAAA (pronounced Quad A) football championship.

Beyond football, what is great about this experience is how the entire city of Athens, and surrounding communities, has banded together to support the team. The Athens Banner-Herald ran a great editorial this morning, which read in part:

...whatever happens tonight, Gladiators, there is one thing each and every one of you need to know. Whatever the scoreboard says as the last second ticks off the clock tonight, all of you are winners.

This isn't meant in the cheesy way in which this platitude is usually offered, which is to suggest that even making it to the playoffs is a singular honor, although that is certainly true and something in which you should take real pride.

But you need to know that you are winners in a much, much deeper sense. You are winners right now, today, because in your pursuit of the excellence needed to make it to the championship game, you have built within yourselves - with no small degree of help from your coaches - some amazing reserves of competence, confidence and the sheer will to get the job done that will serve you well throughout your life.

The Clarke County School Superintendent spoke to the team yesterday after their last practice over at the University of Georgia. Special shirts designed by CCHS marketing students sold out as quickly as they went on sale yesterday. Tickets have been selling briskly, and not just to people associated with the school. Looking at the lines, you could see people from cross-county archrival Cedar Shoals High School getting tickets as well.

Talking to the Kids: Clarke County school district superintendent Philip Lanoue
addresses the Clarke Central football team after the last practice before
tonight's GHSA AAAA state championship game. David Manning/Athens Banner-Herald

And people from the sports media side of the equation? Athens Banner-Herald prep editor Jeff Cochran will be covering the game for the paper. Former ABH sports editor Blake Giles will be doing the radio call on WMSL-FM. The games will be broadcast, and streamed, on Georgia Public Broadcasting. University of Georgia Women's Basketball Sports Information Director Mike Mobley is taking time out from his hectic schedule to take his middle school son to the game.

Me? I will be paying to see a football game at any level for the third time ever as I take my daughter and three of her high school girlfriends down to the ATL for the game. Too bad there is no hazardous duty pay for that!

Oh and one last thing. GO GLADS!

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