In my previous life as sports editor, I rarely missed the Parkview-Brookwood football game. Not only Gwinnett’s best rivalry during those days, it was the state’s best as well. The atmosphere was always electric, the stakes high, the amount of gifted athletes numerous.
During my time in sports I saw some great Parkview-Brookwood games, top-notch players and some amazing last-second finishes. But nothing matches what I saw as a spectator in the stands this past Friday night at Brookwood Community Stadium. Four touchdowns in the final two minutes. Four lead changes in that time. Four big-time plays, capped by Nick Thompkins' 80-yard kickoff return that sealed the Broncos' victory with 15 seconds left to play.
Talk about picking the right game to reacquaint myself with the rivalry of Five Forks Trickum. It was one of the wildest finishes I've ever seen, one that coaches from both Brookwood and Parkview deemed the best in the history of the storied rivalry. As a spectator, I got to enjoy it and soak up the atmosphere without having to worry about how to accurately depict this unbelievable game in a 20-inch story. Then again, it would have been fun to try.
As a sports writer, you chronicle the game through the eyes of the players and the coaches. This time it was fun to enjoy it through the eyes of the fans. The ebb and flow of those final two minutes was wild, with dejection quickly followed by elation, then repeated again. And when it was over, the Parkview faithful were left to wonder what might have been while the Brookwood crew literally danced with joy.
It was a great scene, but my night was enjoyable long before the histrionics. There's not much difference from where I used to sit in the Brookwood press box versus my seat Friday night in the stands. But the perspective was remarkably different, understandably so.
When covering a game your focus is on the field, charting the drives, compiling the stats and chronicling the plays. When you're responsible for compiling every yard, every catch and every carry, there's not much of a chance to take a wider view. But when those duties are no longer yours, there's plenty of time to take in the total experience. And at Brookwood, like it is at many stadiums across the county, that experience is spectacular.
From fan support to booster clubs, from bands to cheerleaders, from the folks who run the press box and make the announcements to the volunteers who line the field and hang the banners, football players in Gwinnett County have it good. Maybe even better than they know.
Those who are new to Gwinnett football marvel at it. The pomp and production that go into making games into events separate Gwinnett from many places, as the parental support surely does. It's hard to convince a newcomer to Brookwood Community Stadium that is indeed a high school and not a small college. The video board does little to discourage that notion.
At the game, the 1996 state champion Brookwood squad was honored, celebrating its famous victory over vaunted Valdosta. I covered that game and those players during that memorable year. Fifteen years later my view has changed, but Friday's atmosphere proved that Gwinnett football hasn't.
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.