The first high school games are still a couple of weeks away, but the football frenzy that is so much a part of Friday nights in Gwinnett County will kick off early at Brookwood Community Stadium.
The Atlanta Falcons are coming to Snellville tonight.
With expectations high after a surprising 11-5 season a year ago, all the seats are expected to be filled well before the 7:30 p.m. start of the Falcons' scrimmage matching the offense against the defense.
Not only is it a chance to get an early look at the team in near game-type conditions, but there is no charge. An estimated 10,000 fans overflowed Mill Creek Community Stadium in Hoschton last year, and at least as big a crowd is expected at Brookwood for the second edition of "Falcons Friday Night Lights."
There will be games and activities for youngsters prior to the scrimmage and a 15-minute autograph session followed by fireworks afterward.
Gwinnett County lost its permanent link to the Falcons when the team moved its practice complex from Suwanee to Flowery Branch in Hall County in the late 1990s. But the scrimmages have shown the continued close bond between the Falcons and their Gwinnett fans.
"We want to move these scrimmages around every year and hopefully we can get all around the metro Atlanta area," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "It's a great time for the communities, but it's also a good time for our players. Many of them aren't that far away from being high school players.
"They really enjoyed it last year and the fans have an opportunity to see our guys up close and personal in a different environment than watching them at the Georgia Dome."
The game will be a homecoming for veteran kicker Jason Elam, a Brookwood graduate. The 39-year-old played for the Broncos before Brookwood Community Stadium opened, however. In the early years of the school, Brookwood played its home games at Parkview.
"It will be a great thing," former Broncos coach and athletic director Dave Hunter said of the Falcons coming to Brookwood when the event was first announced. "Brookwood's got such a great tradition, and the Brookwood community is so active. I know they'll welcome the Falcons with open arms."
Tonight's scrimmage is part of the Falcons' All-Access Weekend. There will also be a free event at the Georgia Dome on Saturday, with gates opening at 10:30 a.m. The team's 2008 highlight film will be shown on the Dome's new video boards, and a simulated game will held at about 12:30 p.m.
The Falcons open preseason play at Detroit on Aug. 15, facing former Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford - the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Atlanta opens the regular season at home against Miami on Sept. 13.
SideBar: Falcons Friday Night Lights
What: Atlanta Falcons offense vs. defense scrimmage followed by an autograph session and fireworks
When: Today, with gates opening at 6 p.m. Offense vs. defense scrimmage is scheduled to begin about 7:30 p.m.
Where: Brookwood High School, Snellville
For more information: www.atlantafalcons.com/allaccess