I was just a teenager in 1990 the first time I witnessed a high school football game at Clarke Central.
A bonafide Georgia powerhouse, Clarke had its storied history and I was eager to soak up some of the atmosphere, as well as see some of the talent that had whipped Gwinnett teams for years. The Gladiators beat up on their Gwinnett County foe on this night, too, routing Brookwood 49-0 behind big running back Carlos Freeman.
One of the traditions I remember the best, at least from an intimidation standpoint, was the Clarke players' walk to the field. Exiting from the school building on the hill, they walked through the trees on the Baxter Street end of the field like true Gladiators walking into an arena for battle.
The pregame ritual also showed me the value of a quality entrance, something the Collins Hill football players get to enjoy for the first time this season.
The Suwanee high school's players and coaches previously walked behind the home stands and down a set of side stairs to the field. It was done less out of tradition, and more out of necessity.
Last Friday's season opener marked the debut of a new path to the field, the first-ever Eagle Walk. A walkway was cut between a stand of trees on the fieldhouse end of the field, wide enough so that the Eagles could make a grand entrance together onto the field. The Screaming Eagle Marching Band formed a line at the end of the walk that stretched across the track and onto the field, fueling an exciting debut of what should become a long-standing tradition for the program.
While the walk itself is exciting, it's part of some continuing improvements for a school that opened in 1994. Collins Hill always had several amenities nearby --a huge park, an aquatic center, a tennis center and now Georgia Gwinnett College --but the football program didn't have the luxuries that other Gwinnett teams had until recently.
For years, the football coaches and players called the locker rooms and offices by the gym home. Most other county schools had football-specific fieldhouses and the Eagles finally got one of their own a few years back.
That addition put them on equal footing with other high schools --fieldhouses are now standard issue at new schools --but the latest Eagle Walk goes beyond standard. It will create memories for the athletes who make the walk to play high school football, an ideal entrance in front of a roaring home crowd.
Will the Eagle Walk ever be as intimidating as Clarke Central's tradition? Maybe not. But it's still a great addition for the Collins Hill community.
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock. For Hammock's blog, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willsworld.