The North Augusta football team takes a trip toward Atlanta to play Georgia high school power Valdosta at noon as part of the National High School Gridiron Challenge. The game will be played at North Gwinnett High School.
The Yellow Jackets might be 2-0 but they now play the Wildcats, one of the nation’s best programs. Valdosta has won more than 20 state titles.
“We’re playing on a big stage against one of the top programs in the country and it’s going to be one of those things that I hope propels us,” North Augusta coach Dan Pippin said. “It’s just the third game of the year, but hopefully it’s something we can fall back on later in the season when we have meaningful games.”
Pippin, who said the conversation about participating started two years ago, doesn’t believe the game’s result will negatively hurt his team. Instead, he expects it to only increase his program’s public perception. Pippin said coaches may know and respect North Augusta’s name — the Yellow Jackets are 37-6 since the start of the 2009 season — but this trip could help others’ awareness.
Valdosta’s presence is a reason. The Wildcats started playing football in 1913 and have had only three losing seasons since 1944. In 2011, Valdosta went 8-3 and made the Class AAAAA state playoffs.
Pippin also hopes the game location benefits his team. Nearby at the Georgia Dome, there are the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff games, which feature North Carolina State-Tennessee tonight and then Auburn-Clemson Saturday night. Pippin hopes the closeness provides chances for his players to get looks.
Thinking into the future, Pippin wonders if North Augusta could serve as host to a similar event.
“I talked with our booster club,” Pippin said. “I said, ‘We could put something on like this, where we show off our facilities and that kind of stuff, show what we do and we make the money off everything.’ I would like it be where maybe we’re doing the same thing .”