Staff Photo: Jonathan Phillips. Brookwood's Julian Suber (10) snags the snap during a drill at practice on Tuesday for today's Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star football game.
LAWRENCEVILLE -- Since its inception, the Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star Game has always featured some of the best high school senior football players Gwinnett County had to offer.
The third edition of the game today at Grayson's Britt-Moody Field, however, may have the best opportunity to display the best of the best.
Over the first two years of the game, organizers promised the Georgia Athletic Coaches Association it would not invoke a new rule allowing seniors to play in a second all-star game, and perhaps take potential participants away from the GACA's annual North-South game in Columbus.
"That rule in which they could play in both actually existed last year," said Parkview coach Cecil Flowe, who will coach one of the opposing teams in today's Rivalries of Gwinnett game. "But as a courtesy to the GACA game ... we told them we would not take anybody invited to the North-South game last year.
"This year, we've given the kids the choice."
At least four participants in this year's Rivalries of Gwinnett game -- Grayson's Ean Pemberton and Terry Williams, Collins Hill's Charles Perkins and Peachtree Ridge's Brad Roby -- will also make the trek to Columbus to play in the GACA North-South game Dec. 29.
"I like playing in the Gwinnett game because I know a lot of people (on both teams)," Roby said. "Hanging with friends I grew up playing with, that's a plus. The North-South game is probably a little more serious because (the North team) may have something to prove. This game is more fun."
In addition, Grayson's Shawn Green and North Gwinnett linemen Austin Shepherd and Ja'Wuan James will also play in today's game, in addition to being selected for national all-star games.
All those factors may combine to make this year's Rivalries of Gwinnett game the most star-studded event since it began in 2007.
Dacula coach Kevin Maloof, who will coach the team opposite Flowe's in this year's Rivalries game, believes the opportunity to play in more than one game is just one reason for the biggest names have decided to participate this year.
"I firmly believe the kids who played in it the last two years went back to their underclassmen teammates and said, 'You'll want to play in this game. It's really first class,'" Maloof said. "It's turned into a great event."
The other big changes in this year's game are the coaches.
The pervious two years, the head coaches of the two teams were retired former head coaches from Gwinnett programs -- the first year, Brookwood's Dave Hunter and Central Gwinnett's Tally Johnson and last year, Shiloh's Charlie Jordan and former Dacula and Duluth coach Mike Strickland.
This year, Flowe and Maloof -- the county's two longest-tenured current coaches and two of the driving forces in establishing the Rivalries game -- will coach opposing teams.
"Really, the first two years, I was more of a coordinator putting together the teams, and Cecil was on his side, too," Maloof said. "So, this is the first year we really get to coach, so that's going to be fun."
Both Maloof and Flowe should have plenty of fun coaching some of the top senior talent, and judging by the two rosters, they will likely take two different approaches -- at least, offensively.
Team Maloof will feature the county's top two senior rushing leaders in Pemberton and Perkins, and will feature only one full-time quarterback in Grayson's Patrick Santry.
Meanwhile, Team Flowe will have two full-time quarterbacks in Parkview's Kalik Barnes and Meadowcreek's Tydrell Wright and will also feature three of the county's most explosive receivers in South Gwinnett's Jonathan Krause, GAC's Julian Horton and Hebron's Will Treadwell.