The game is almost here. “The Backyard Brawl” is the most anticipated football game of the season in Mitchell County where this year the Mitchell County Eagles will host the Pelham Hornets at Centennial Stadium in Camilla. And again, the winner takes the region championship – for the third year in a row. The Eagles are 8-1 and ranked fifth in Class A. The Hornets are 9-0 and ranked third in Class A. Both teams have breezed through their region schedule with perfect 8-0 records and none of those games were ever in doubt.

Both teams feature explosive offenses and dominant defenses. In eight region games this season, the Eagles have scored 422 points and given up only 28 points. Pelham has scored 468 points against those same opponents and allowed just 12 points. In nine games this season the Hornet defense has allowed a total of three touchdowns – a total of 18 points.

The teams are loaded with college prospects such as Pelham’s Kendrick Patterson and Darrell Starling, while Mitchell County has James Thomas, Rodney Jones, Myron Carthen and Lance Robinson.

Mitchell County junior quarterback Quantavious has thrown 23 touchdown passes and rushed for five more this season to lead the Eagles. Pelham’s Patterson has thrown for 15 touchdowns and rushed for eight more to lead the Hornets in limited playing time this season.

Pelham head coach Dondrial Pinkins has a unique perspective on the game. He played in the rivalry game as a student at Mitchell-Baker during the days the Eagles dominated the series. Later he was also a coach at Mitchell-Baker and is now in his fifth year as head coach at Pelham.

“I think the game is going to come down to who is more mentally prepared,” said Pinkins. “Mitchell County is who they are. They are going to coming with a chip on their shoulder and determined to defend their home turf. They are well-coached and will be ready to play. We are out to play our game and see where the cards fall.”

The winner of Friday night’s game will claim the Region 1-A championship, the top seed from the region in the playoffs and a first-round bye in the state playoffs. Depending on how other teams in Class A fare, both teams could still receive a first-round bye because of the GHSA power rankings.

“We are going to give Pelham the respect they deserve,” said Mitchell County head coach Deshon Brock, “but for us, this is just another game on our way to Atlanta. I know everybody in the community is talking about the game and I know about the rivalry, but I don’t put more emphasis on this game than the others. They are just another team in our way that we have to beat. Winning the region championship is nice, but our goal is a state championship.”

Brock said he and his team are still working on the same things in practice and have not changed anything in their normal routines to get ready for the game.

“I would imagine Pelham will have a few surprises for us,” the coach said. “But it all comes down to fundamentals and staying focused. We need our guys to do their jobs and not try to be the hero and do everybody’s job. Our guys have to focus on what they have to do. We have to wrap up on defense. Like I said, it’s all about fundamentals.”

Brock said he has asked his team to stay away from social media this week because local Facebook, Instagram and Twitter feeds are dominated by the rivalry game this week.

“I told them to not get engaged in all of that,” Brock said. “Let’s stay focused on what we have to do and stay away from that outside noise.”

That maybe easier said than done since the schools are nine miles apart and family, friends and neighbors are all invested in the two teams.

“The community is definitely hyped up about this game,” Pinkins said. “We are trying to stay focused on what we do and be able to play our game. This week we are trying to keep our guys healthy, so we are not doing a lot hard, heavy hitting. We want to come in as healthy as we can and mentally focused on what we need to do.”

A standing room only crowd is expected and tickets for Friday night’s game are on sale at both schools to avoid long lines at the ticket booth. Kickoff Friday night is set for 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Stadium in Camilla.

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