The Hoyas (3-2, 2-1) currently lead the series 8-2 over the Mustangs (1-3, 0-3), and there is a lot at stake as the teams jockey for region positioning with only a few more games remaining.
The communities and schools have a vibrant history and rivalry surrounding one another as Kennesaw Mountain was created to alleviate some of the problem’s stemming from Harrison’s growth.
New to the rivalry, however, are the opposing coaches, Kennesaw Mountain’s Andy Scott and Harrison mentor Marty Galbraith, who are in their first year as leaders of their respective programs.
Every week is a learning experience for them, and this week is no different as they, as well as members of their coaching staffs, begin to understand what this rivalry means.
“Our school was cut from Harrison from my understanding,” Scott said. “So, a lot of these kids know kids that go to Harrison. They go to church together. They played youth football together when they were younger. We share Kennesaw Due West road.
“It’s a tremendous battle for everyone involved.”
Galbraith shared the same view.
“It didn’t take long for us to understand this rivalry,” he said. “I have four guys on my staff that’s been a part of it for a while, and the kids have been a part of it for a while now, too.
“Kennesaw Mountain is a school that’s right down the road from us. When you build another school so close to one, it’s definitely going to mean something to both of them, and this one means a lot.”
Given the history of the teams, it’s understandable that preparing for tonight’s game would be different than most. But Scott and Galbraith don’t see it that way. While it is a rivalry, it’s also a region game, so the focus doesn’t change.
“We prepare for this game the way we prepare for any other region game,” Galbraith said. “Where we are in the season, this is an important game. The fact that it happens to be Kennesaw Mountain makes the game a little more exciting, but as far as preparation goes, it’s similar.
“Every team you play is unique, so what you do in practice changes for what you expect to see in the game that week. So, you have to prepare for that.”
“There’s no different preparation involved other than planning for what Harrison does,” Scott added. “We try to be as consistent as possible where we put more emphasis on what our kids need to do. The rivalry aspect means the kids play at a different level, but leading up to the game, we want to be consistent in our preparation.”
Leading up to tonight’s game has been difficult for Kennesaw Mountain, which has dropped three straight to region championship contenders South Cobb, North Cobb and McEachern. After tonight, the Mustangs also face difficult opponents in Marietta and Hillgrove, so a win tonight would be significant in several ways.
“There’s no question it’s important for the community to get the ‘Bell’ back in our trophy case,” Scott said, whose team has lost two straight to Harrison. “This is also a big momentum swing game. We’re both battling to build momentum in our programs.”
Harrison, which has taken advantage of a front-loaded schedule that includes Campbell and Pebblebrook but closes with the region’s strongest teams, also see’s tonight’s matchup as one that can build momentum for the future.
“Based on where we are in our record, it’s an important game as we’re trying to improve the program,” Galbraith said. “This is a game that people projected and think will be an even matchup. So, it’s important to take advantage of that.”