As the Winder-Barrow High School and Apalachee High School football teams prepare for their next meeting in the Battle of Barrow, one coach likely understands the rivalry as much as anyone.
WBHS graduate Jeff Maddox is now in his second stint as a coach for the Bulldogg football program but he has also seen the rivalry from the AHS point of view, working as an assistant the past several seasons for coach Shane Davis and the Wildcats.
“As a coach when the rivarly between Apalachee and Winder-Barrow started back several years ago, I was at Winder and they won several years in a row,” said Maddox, a 1990 graduate of WBHS. “Nobody’s senior class wanted to be the one that broke the streak and get beat by Apalachee.”
Following the 2009 season, Maddox was hired as an assistant at AHS.
“When I got to Apalachee four years ago, they were on a winning streak against Winder-Barrow and that was the theme over there as well,” Maddox said. “The saying was ‘don’t be the team that stops the winning streak.’ I would say that coaching on both sides the atmosphere surrounding the game has grown and each team respects each other because of the number of players and coaches that know each other. At the end of the day, both teams know that this is a region game and counts much more than just beating a rival.”
One thing which has changed about the matchup is the fact both teams are in the same region now. Winning a region game is, in theory, more important than beating your rival.
“I think when Winder-Barrow had the first winning streak several years ago and they and Apalachee were in different regions, the players thought of it a little more of a rivalry than the fans did,” Maddox said. “Recently, since we have been in the same region, this game means a little more than just a cross-town rival game. The fans have enjoyed the atmosphere and all the things that the community has started more than the players.
“The coaches have tried to make the players realize this is more than just a rival game, it is a region game and a region win is more important. I think the community has done a great job of making the rivalry something more than just the football game with the eating contest, the drum line contest, decorating local businesses and restaurants. The community definitely has begun to enjoy it more than the players.”
What does Maddox expect from this Friday’s matchup?
“I expect a very competitive game,” he said. “The group of players for both sides know each other so well. They have grown up playing against or even with each other. I know a lot of these guys have played together on the travel team out of Winder since they were probably 11 or 12-years-old. So the players know each other well and respect each other.”
The changes for WBHS as well as some for AHS will also add an extra dimension for fans to look over.
“As far as the game, I think both teams are doing a little something different offensively and defensively from years past so both have had to adjust to the different styles,” Maddox said. “Just like all the rest I have been involved in, the players for both teams will play their tails off.
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