Will anyone be at home in Lincoln County or Wilkes County on Friday night?
It seems the population of both communities will be at Lincoln County's Buddy Bufford Field at 7:30 Friday night for the Class A state championship game.
Record sales to this point of 2,000-plus tickets at $10 apiece had been sold by Wednesday afternoon at Lincoln County Middle School. Calls have come from Chattanooga to Savannah about tickets. One fan bought 30 tickets at one time.
Sales have been just as brisk at Washington-Wilkes. One fan bought 27 tickets. The Tigers had sold about 1,450 of their allotment of 1,500 by Wednesday morning. Expect a standing room-only crowd of about two or three lines deep on Friday for the game.
An overflow crowd of that size must be accommodated. Portable toilets are on the way. Six sets of temporary bleachers have been added to an open end zone.
There will only be about 3,400 places to sit, but that's no deterrent. That many tickets had been sold by Wednesday at lunch. Lincoln County had traditionally not sold title game tickets until Wednesdays.
"We can basically put 5,000 people in here and not burst," Lincoln County coach Larry Campbell said. "We're going to have so much security here we are not worried about it."
The normal police staffing at a Lincoln County game is six officers. Campbell estimates there will be "around 40 officers" at Friday's game. Campbell said volunteers from the Georgia State Patrol and the Georgia National Guard will aid in crowd control.
"Law enforcement has asked us not to mix Lincoln and Washington fans," Campbell said. "We've split the stadium. There will be gates to keep Washington folks on one side. Their folks will have their own rest rooms, their own ticket booth, concessions, and their own press box. We just don't want the fan bases interchanging at areas around the stadium."
Campbell doesn't see a situation that would cause overflows.
"Once we sell to a point where it is not safe we are not going to keep selling," Campbell said. "But we don't see that happening."
MIGHTY BIG: Coach Russell Morgan does not soft-shoe the title contest.
"This will be the biggest game ever for either school just for who's playing who," he said. "We've both played for a number of championships but never each other. I'm sure one side will never let the other live it down."
Tigers lineman Markeith Wylie remembers the earlier meeting this year when Lincoln County beat Washington-Wilkes, 20-13.
"Lincoln got lucky," Wylie said. "They won't be getting lucky again on Friday. Not this time."
Morgan would rather tone done any bulletin-board material.
"I won't say anyone got lucky," Morgan said. "We had chances. We got inside the 2-yard line twice and didn't score. Part of that is we didn't execute by making our blocks. The other part is Lincoln is darn good. Their goal-line defense has been excellent."
NOT A FAN: Campbell doesn't like the buildup of the rivalry involving the phrase "378 War."
"The '378 War' term infuriates me," Campbell said. "This will not be a war. It will be a high school football game. We've got a real war going in Iraq. To compare a high school football game with 15-, 16-, 17-year-old kids to what our young men and women are facing in Iraq is ridiculous. I'm not upset with anyone who does use the term '378 War' but to compare a high school football game to an ongoing war is ridiculous. Nobody here is going to get killed or lose a loved one. That's carrying it a little too far."
STAND TALL: The home side concrete stands at Buddy Bufford Field seat only 1,300 fans. The metal stands on the visitors' side, where Tigers' fans will sit, can seat 1,500 fans. Campbell said 4,000-to-4,500 fans is the largest crowd he's seen at a Lincoln County football game.
A WORRY: Morgan doesn't worry about the pressure riding on this game. What he does worry about is what he cannot control.
"The big thing I worry about is what our kids hear when they leave school," Morgan said. "In years past we have had kids who have gotten calls at home and threats and all kinds of nasty stuff. I worry about that taking the focus of our players off the game."
Morgan could give a briefing about the many motivational ploys during a typical game week.
"You'd be amazed at the amount of adults who get into all that," Morgan said. "It's not just the kids and buses getting painted on. Or the times something happens in Washington that's done by folks in Washington to motivate our kids. I'd imagine some things like that happen in Lincoln, too."
Earlier this year, Campbell had a large "WW" spray-painted on his driveway. It wasn't the first time.
"I'm not giving out my address." Morgan said. "It's classified."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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