MARIETTA — Three Cobb County football teams are headed to the state semifinals on Friday night, and their schools are ready to cheer them on.
Marietta High School, which hasn’t been to a semifinal game since 1994, will head to Parkview to play.
Allatoona High School became the first Cobb County football program to win a state championship in 2015 and is looking for a repeat victory as it takes on Richmond Hill in Savannah.
Harrison High School’s last appearance in the semifinals was in 2000. The Hoyas will play Dacula on that team’s home turf.
Marietta High School
In Marietta on Monday, cheerleaders prepared an 8-foot-by-10-foot banner that would hang over the grand staircase in the main hall of the high school the following morning, said Craig McKinney, the school’s athletic director.
The cheerleaders painted the words “Teams 2 remember play in December” on the large swaths of butcher paper.
McKinney said, as is tradition on every Friday morning, the Marietta High School drumline, cheerleaders and dance team will head to the rotunda near the entrance of the school to pep up their fellow students. This time, he said, there will likely be some extra enthusiasm ahead of the big game.
McKinney said while there won’t be a pep rally scheduled this week, the student body will be rallying around its team for a send-off on Friday afternoon as the players depart the school after their pregame meal between 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.
The students will gather with cheerleaders outside the cafeteria to whoop, holler and sing their alma mater as the football team heads to the field house ahead of its departure for Lilburn.
Blue Devil pride flags will also line Whitlock Avenue in front of the school, and businesses around town are expected to have well-wishes posted on their electronic marquis, McKinney said.
“It’s amazing. Our community is super involved in this,” he said. “It’s really helping to drive our sense of Blue Devil pride. The kids are really inspired by it.”
The athletic director credited his coaching staff’s focus on their players’ character development for the team’s success. He also said that character development has translated to strong engagement from the student section.
“All of the kids in school are behind them. They look up to our football players,” McKinney said. “They’re a bunch of really good kids. ... We’ve got a whole team full of leaders.”
Allatoona High School
In the Cobb School District, end-of-course testing has dampened some of the festivities that would normally accompany each team’s advance to the top four games in the state.
“We’re in the middle of trying to test for English and math this week, so we’re trying not to disrupt the schedule as much as we can academically,” said Allatoona High School Athletic Director Amie Howard.
Howard said students, staff and administration are still planning to show how proud they are of their teams. A send-off celebration is scheduled for just before 10 a.m. on Friday, when the team shoves off for its four-hour bus ride to Richmond Hill.
Howard also said the school’s spirit club is working on decorations that will be put up around the building during the week.
Regardless of how much partying will be going on this week, Howard said she couldn’t be more proud of the football team and the staff in her department.
“I’m proud of all of my teams. All of my coaches work so hard, and of course I’m proud, because we’re making it to the semifinals, and those coaches work hours and hours,” she said. “It’s not just about winning a football game, it’s about trying to make them better people for the years to come. The longer that those coaches are in front of those kids because we’re still winning games, the better chance we have of reaching more kids to make them successful in life.”
Harrison High School
At Harrison, Athletic Director Josh Hawk echoed Howard. Hawk said the school is trying to balance its excitement with testing and doesn’t have a celebration scheduled during school hours.
“We’re testing from 8:20 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at various times, so it’s difficult to not disrupt that. ... But I wish we could do a little more here during the school day,” Hawk said, adding that even a send-off celebration is uncertain given the testing schedule. “We know it’s a big event, but we’re trying to keep it routine as far as what we would do on a normal away game.”
An after-school pep rally is possible on Thursday, he said, and pre-sale tickets for “spirit buses,” which will transport students who want a ride to the big game after school on Friday, will be available during lunch for $2 off their normal $15 price from Wednesday to Friday.
“We just want to get as many students that want to hop on the spirit bus (as we can) and head up there ... for support,” Hawk said. “I think it says a lot to have a contingency of die-hard fans rolling up to the stadium all at once.”
Hawk said the Hoyas will likely have their pregame meal at Dacula, where the athletic director has designated a space for the Harrison team to relax before game time.
All three semifinal games will be held at 7:30 p.m.