That was 20 years and nine new high school football teams ago.
When the new football season kicks off tonight around the county, there will be approximately 1,500 players representing 21 Cobb high schools, and the best part may be that nearly any one of the schools can beat the other on any given Friday.
"It used to be we could walk out on the field and know we could outcoach a team," said Queen, who has been an assistant or head coach in Cobb for the last 15 years. "Now, it's like running a small Division II program, and if you aren't working year round, you can't compete with anyone."
That idea will be put to the test tonight with a number of big games on the Week 1 slate, including the Cobb Football Friday game of the week, Kennesaw Mountain at Pope. For years, the Mustangs have been on the doorstep of the playoffs, but for one reason or another, they just haven't been able to get over the last hurdle. They will open the season against the up-and-coming Greyhounds and their offensive line that averages 280 pounds per man - led by Vanderbilt commitment Grant Ramsay.
Other games feature: Hutson Mason, the reigning Class AAAAA Offensive Player of the Year, will lead one of 2008s surprise teams, No. 9 Lassiter into Sprayberry for the annual Backyard Brawl; Marietta Daily Journal Dynamite Dozen defensive back Christian Turnipseed and his Harrison Hoyas will host No. 3 Peachtree Ridge, making it the third time in the last 11 games the two traditional powers have faced off.
The only game in the county pitting Dynamite Dozen players against each other tonight is when wide receiver Kennard Backman and Whitefield Academy travel to Walker to tangle with linebacker Davis Feder.
In addition, Campbell's T.K. Dodd and North Cobb Christian's Harry Miles will be making their head coaching debuts with their respective teams. They can only hope to have as much success as the county's other new coach, Walton's Rocky Hidalgo, who got his first win last Saturday when the Raiders opened the season by beating Norcross in the Corky Kell Classic at the Georgia Dome. And for those fans who just want to see who might be the county's best player, they will have to wait until next Friday for McEachern's Rajaan Bennett to take the field again. Bennett lit up Brookwood's defense at the Dome for 187 rushing yards and four touchdowns.
Part of the reason the county's high school football has become so competitive is in that same 20-year period Cobb's population has increased by more than 262,000 people according to U.S. Census statistics, but former McEachern head coach Jimmy Dorsey said its not so much the influx of people, but how the high school teams in the area have tapped into the potential talent.
"(Back then) most high schools just had football teams," he said. "Now the schools have football programs."
The program is where all football being played in any particular school district falls under the umbrella of the area high school. From the time the players are in the sixth and seventh grade they are functioning on a team that will run the same system as they move up to the freshman team, junior varsity and eventual varsity team.
"I think we have all adopted Valdosta's model," Dorsey said. "At least that's what I did with my program.
"In Valdosta, it was just understood. If you were a boy you were expected to play football for Coach (Wright) Bazemore (who won 10 state titles in 28 years as head coach). That was your destiny."
Kell coach Derek Cook said coaches are also doing a better job of recruiting athletes. Not from school to school, but recruiting from within their own hallways.
"If you see a kid walking down the hall you get him to come out (for football)," Cook said. "This year I have three basketball players and a bunch of baseball players coming out. It's the same in any sport, if we see a kid that we think could help us (or them) we try to encourage them to try out."
And let's face it. Players know the game today provides opportunities that may not have been present 20 or more years ago.
"There's a better level of instruction now," Cook said. "Football teams now have 10 or 15 coaches compared instead of the five we had when we were playing.
"The kids also notice all the media and attention they can get at the higher levels. And if their friends are able to get it, they want it too."
Of course, for any player, he still needs to be able to perform once he takes the field, and Queen says there are more and better athletes than ever before thanks to all of the other advantages previously mentioned.
"Kids are bigger, faster and stronger," he said. "There used to be only one (former North Cobb defensive end and current Georgia Bulldog) Derrick Lott in the entire county. We've had 24 players sign (college scholarships) in the last three years. Now you can find six or seven (Division I) players that play on the same team."