Warner Robins coach Marquis Westbrook talks to his players after their win over Archer.

It’s the game that cuts the International City in half right along Ga. Hwy. 247.

Northside and Warner Robins ... red school and blue school ... bragging rights and all that stuff.

The most important guy in town, to be honest, is the Fire Marshal and he used to call the games for Northside. That’s what you’re looking at when 13,000 of your closest friends line up in the queue and watch what’s going on at McConnell-Talbert Stadium once a year.

“It’s the easiest week to get players to practice,” Northside head coach Chad Alligood says. “You don’t have to motivate them. The kids are already dialed in from the first time Warner Robins’ name is mentioned.”

By his own admission, the cancellation of last week’s game with Howard already helped out in that department. They got the chance to start looking at film and breaking things down going back to Wednesday of last week.

“This game means a lot,” he continues. “You live with it for 364 days after it’s played. It’s not fun to be on the losing side of it for a year.” That's the side Northside has been on for the last four years. 

Alligood’s first year in this rivalry was 1999. The buses rolled up at 6 p.m. that night and The Mac was already full.

“I just thought, ‘Holy Cow!’ I was 24 and it was everything they told you it was and more. The passion and intensity were second-to-none.”

Nine of his 18 coaches have played in this game. Alligood has only coached in it. Each one of those who have played in this rivalry wears a T-shirt from their time on the field at practice this week. Tuesday he gave the players a shirt from 1989 to stare at with the stories that come with it.

"This game means a lot, You live with it for 364 days after it’s played. It’s not fun to be on the losing side of it for a year.” - Northside coach Chad Alligood

When I asked Warner Robins head coach Marquis Westbrook about the game, and knowing what it means, I wanted to ask the question this way: What’s the wildest place someone has wanted to talk to you about the game itself?

“The doctor’s office,” he says after thinking about it for a second. “I also remember having someone talk to me about it at a car wash and at church.

“Every year it seems to get bigger and bigger. The kids remember it. People remember what happens. It is a city-wide, region-wide happening. It is very exciting. It’s one of those weeks where you can throw the records out. They don’t matter. There’s a LOT on this game.”

For Coach Westbrook, like Coach Alligood, he has seen it from both the assistant’s and head coach perspective. You go from focusing on your position group to focusing on the logistics- making sure all the little things are going right during this week.

“But once you get to the game,” he says, “you’re playing football.”

the Mac

McConnell-Talbert Stadium will be at capacity for the big rivalry.

Credit: Macon.com

Marvin James has his stories, too, and he gets to tell them now as well.

He played at Warner Robins and has the unique position to talk about it from his sports anchor post at WMAZ-TV in Macon.

“It’s one week out of the year where you hate the other school,” he admits. “It’s a chance for parents, grandparents, and entire generations to be a part of a good, fun rivalry.

“When I played in this game, the crowd was great. It was better than college and it’s high school at its purest to be honest. There’s all the people that attend the game, the bands are great, and there’s so much pride on both sides. The winner gets to brag about it for a whole year at the barber shops and all the churches.”

There are a great deal of people tied to this game that go to Marvin’s church as well. One of the beautiful things about it for him is seeing all the generations he knows from town take their steps in adding to what has gone on in the past.

Frank Malloy probably shot video of Marvin as a player and works alongside him from the middle of the anchor desk. He came down to Macon in May of 1982 and has seen a lot of this rivalry up close ever since.

“It’s an eye-opening experience for sure,” he says. And there’s one major thing you have to be cognizant of at all times.

“What you wear the week of the game is big! If you’re wearing red or blue, you’re likely to be booted out of the sideline you’re on if it’s the opposite color. It’s best to go with a white or a gray this week.”

How serious is this?

Frank was wearing a red, station-issue identifier golf shirt at a Northside scrimmage earlier this year and he got a look from one of the coaches on site.

“I was told what the magnitude of this game was when I first moved down here from Pennsylvania,” he says. “I got into the stadium and looked around for the first time and I had no idea. But it’s games like this one that showed me what high school football means in the state of Georgia. I had covered games that had good crowds, but it was nothing rivaling that.”

And they’ll do it all over again Friday night.

Highlights at 11.

Play it safe, everyone.. I’ll see you soon...