Geography has given Jefferson County and Swainsboro a head start in clean old-fashioned hate they haven't really built upon.
"I guess I don't like Swainsboro," Jefferson County linebacker Tim Nelson said. "But they're really no big deal. Now Washington County. That's the team I really hate."
The other side of the Emanuel-Jefferson County line views it much the same way.
"I don't know if we have much of a rivalry," Swainsboro coach Shane Williamson said. "Maybe go back a few years. Maybe we have one in basketball. But there's not much past history when it comes to football."
The teams meet tonight in Louisville, Ga., with a lot on the line. Swainsboro (6-0, 3-0) and Jefferson County (4-2, 3-0) are tied for first place in Region 3-AA. There's so much on the line that tensions are starting to rise.
"Now that I think about it I never really liked Swainsboro," Jefferson County's A.J. Harmon said. "Sometimes I see the guys from their team around and they seem to act like they're so much better than everybody else. And now they are undefeated. Guess we're going to have to show them on Friday."
Those words seem cocky. But when you hear him out it's actually a confidence he expresses.
"We're well prepared for them," Harmon said. "And there's no team with coaches that push them like we've been. We work harder than anyone in the area. NFL teams don't train like we do. I love my team for what we've been through. I do think we will win. I'm confident because of the work we've put in."
The Warriors pushed tractor-trailer tires up hills during the preseason. They ran with the tires around their necks. They carried teammates up those hills. They burst off the ground in a football stance and flipped the larger tires off the ground.
The 317-pound Harmon is one of the players those grueling training sessions have helped.
"When that young man decides it is time to go I don't know if there is anyone in the state that can block him," Williamson said.
"Our guys can't stand up near him or Harmon will run through them like a freight train."
Williamson respects the Warriors.
"They've got the best team speed we've seen," he said. "They've got so many athletes at every position. I see a hole in the defense and all of sudden it's closed up. It's going to be a battle."
He expects a playoff atmosphere.
"They're the best football team we've seen so far," he said. "They've got a complete football team in all phases. Offense. Defense. Kicking. Coach (J.B.) Arnold does a great job of putting his players in position where they can hurt the other team.
"We're undefeated but we won't be going into their place the least bit comfortable. ... It's going to be a physical game and we will not hit the field living in fear of staying unbeaten. We're going to come in scared to death of losing."
Reach Jeff Sentell at (706) 823-3425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
LAST WEEK: Swainsboro beat Westside, 21-14 in overtime; Jefferson County defeated Metter, 59-21
KEY PLAYERS: Swainsboro-Senior DT Dwight Smith (6-3, 270); Senior FS/RB Neal David (5-10, 160); Senior LB/RB Derrick Smith (6-3, 190); Junior DB/RB Darien Davis (5-7, 150); Senior DT/OG Daniel Waller (6-3, 225); Jefferson County-Junior OL/DL A.J. Harmon (6-5, 317); Senior QB Dennis Thomas (6-2, 215); Senior LB/TE Tim Nelson (6-4, 235); Junior RB Lamar Brown (5-9, 160); Senior OLB Eric Hannah (5-9, 155)
KEY MATCHUP: Swainsboro's defense vs. Jefferson County's offense. Swainsboro doesn't have much of a punch offensively. Expect the Tigers to put together a few good drives against a quick and strong Jefferson County defense. So that means they have to all but shut down the Warriors offensively. Swainsboro can't win if it gives up more than three touchdowns.
OUTLOOK: Jefferson County has seen smash-mouth football from Baldwin and Thomson. Those teams run the ball better than the Tigers. The Warriors' defense did a decent job for a Class AA team against those larger schools. Swainsboro's defense might be better than Jefferson County's group. But the gap is a lot closer than the canyon of difference between Jefferson's and Swainsboro's offensive attack.
PREDICTION: Jefferson County 21, Swainsboro 14
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