Sunday February 7th, 2016 6:51PM
5:27PM ( 1 hour ago ) Weather Alert

Battle of Oakwood kicks off 2013 football season Friday (Video)

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
OAKWOOD -- Coaches know better than to get too carried away with one game -- but even Jason Roquemore and Tony Lotti admit that this one is immense.

"It's a big deal and a great opportunity for both communities. It's a good opportunity for people to come out and see what both programs are about now because we're both new head coaches, and we expect a big crowd and a good night for football," said Lotti, who will lead West Hall into his second "Battle of Oakwood" on Friday night at Spartan stadium in a game broadcast live on 102.9 FM WDUN.

The contest between cross-town rivals has been played every season since 1994, with the Spartans holding an 11-7-1 advantage -- a slim advantage that's even slimmer in the average score, with West Hall averaging 24.4 points and Johnson 17.8.

Earlier this week, Access North sports editor Morgan Lee caught up with members of both programs to talk about the Battle of Oakwood and what it means to each school. Click "play" below to watch a video presentation about the rivalry.

The Battle of Oakwood from WDUN TV on Vimeo.

That fact that the showdown is now the season opener only adds to a charged atmosphere.

"I think it's a great way to kick off the season," said Roquemore, whose Knights won last season's game 19-13 in his first Battle of Oakwood. "It gives you a lot of incentive in the offseason. The rivalry, the magnitude of it, all those incentives that help through offseason.

"Still we're playing the game of football, and the team that executes the best will be most successful."

Look no further than last season for an example, as the two rivals combined to produce five turnovers in a contest running high with emotion and early season miscues.

"We're trying to do our best to protect the football and not turn it over," Lotti said. "We did that a lot in this game last year. We just want to make sure our discipline level is where it needs to be and make sure we're focused. That's been an issue in the past. But we're excited. We feel like our team has grown a lot this past year and we have made strides."

West Hall, which finished 3-7 last season, would love to get started on the right foot and use the rivalry as a springboard -- much like Johnson did in 2012 en route to a 6-4 record that wiped away memories of a winless 2011.

"Coming out and winning the first rival game set the course for whole year, coming off previous year, which wasn't great," Johnson senior Caleb Herrin said. "It changed the whole atmosphere in the program and within community and inspired us to keep going."

Roquemore is certainly expecting a fired up foe when his Knights take the field.

"People don't give them enough credit. They've done a heck of a job, and they were in a lot of close games last year," Roquemore said. "Our situations are very similar: Both of us are trying to build programs, not teams. And I think they're very talented. I think they will have a much better year this year, and I wish them the best. We respect them and look forward to playing them.

"But we do want to win, just like they want to win."

Indeed, both teams will be aching for the chance at yearly bragging rights.

"It means everything; we've been playing for who knows how long now," West Hall senior Eric Camacho said. "Since I've been playing, we've won one and they've beat us twice. We need some payback."

To get it, West Hall knows it will have to contain Johnson's option attack that rushed for 297 yards in last season's contest. And while the Knights feature several new faces in 2013, they do return senior running back Luis Hernandez, whose 61-yard touchdown run in last year's game provided the winning margin.

"They return a player at running back who hurt us last year and helped seal it with a big run," Lotti said. "They've also got a new quarterback that is very athletic. But, like every game, the big deal will be up front. Who handles that will play big part in who wins this one."

Roquemore agrees and his spent much of the offseason building depth along his lines of scrimmage. And the Knights know they will be tested early and often by a Spartans offense that returns nine starters, including quarterback Zach English, who passed for 136 yards in last year's battle.

"You work all summer, but there's no preparation like the real thing," Roquemore said. "We want to be clean, sharp, crisp, but (starting strong) is a concern. Hopefully we'll take care of ball and not commit any stupid penalties."

If history is any guide, fans should prep for a battle to the wire. The last five contests between the Knights and Spartans featured a deciding margin of 5.4 points on average, and, since a five-game win streak from West Hall (1998-2002), no team has won more than two in a row in the rivalry.

"It's a lot of fun," Lotti said. "At this point it's really more about playing somebody in a 0different colored jersey. Our scrimmage got canceled, so our kids are just excited about let's go ahead and get this thing started."


-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- RADIO: 102.9 FM
-- JOHNSON(0-0, playing non-region schedule): The Knights finished 6-4 in 2012.
-- WEST HALL (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA): The Spartans finished 3-7 in 2012.
-- HISTORY: Johnson won the last meeting 19-13 in 2012. West Hall leads the series 11-7-1.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: East Hall Stadium, Rabbittown
-- DAWSON (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA): The Tigers finished 6-5 in 2012.
-- EAST HALL (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAA): The Vikings finished 5-5 in 2012.
-- HISTORY: Dawson County won the last meeting, 42-0 in 2012. The Tigers lead the series 6-1.

-- WHEN: 7:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Frank McClure Stadium, Hiawassee
-- HAYESVILLE (0-0): The Yellow Jackets finished 4-7 in 2012.
-- TOWNS (0-0, playing non region schedule): The Indians finished 3-7 in 2012
-- HISTORY: Hayesville won the last meeting 20-12 in 2012. Hayesville leads the series 18-1.


-- WHEN: 5:30 p.m.
-- WHERE: Georgia Dome, Atlanta
-- NORTH GWINNETT (0-0, 0-0 Region 7-AAAAAA): The Bulldogs finished 11-2 in 2012, reaching the state quarterfinals.
-- CAMDEN (0-0, 0-0 Region 1-AAAAAA): The Wildcats finished 11-2 in 2012, reaching the state quarterfinals.
-- HISTORY: Camden won the only previous meeting, 35-0 in the 2009 Class AAAAA quarterfinals.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Bartus, Icemen shuts out Gwinnett
Garrett Bartus pitched a 42 save shutout, as the Evansville IceMen topped the Gwinnett Gladiators on a New year
10:23PM ( 2 years ago )
Gator Bowl Preview Capsule
A rematch of last year's Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31 in Orlando.
8:52PM ( 2 years ago )
Millsap's 34 leads Hawks past Celtics
Paul Millsap had season highs with 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks rallied from an 18-point deficit for a 92-91 win over the Boston Celtics on Tuesday afternoon.
7:44PM ( 2 years ago )
Big Red Shootout: Buford foils Lady Elephants' upset bid in finale
Buford junior Camille Anderson knows to forget about the past during games.
11:09PM ( 2 years ago )
Boys basketball: Knights rebound with win over Centennial
The Johnson boys bounced back after a loss to Grayson on Friday with a 94-72 win Saturday night over Centennial in the Duluth Jingle Jam.
10:43PM ( 2 years ago )
Girls basketball: Dawson falls in Battle of States finals
Dawson County fell behind early and could not complete the comeback in a 70-65 loss to Hayesville, N.C. in the championship game of The Battle of the States Tournament Saturday night.
10:38PM ( 2 years ago )
High School Sports
Snelling to make curtain call at East-West Classic (Video)
Ask Walt Snelling about Gainesville football and you will be supplied with a litany of great players and games from a program with an illustrious history.
7:33PM ( 2 years ago )
High School football 2013: Superlatives abound after another special season
After letting it soak in for a few days we
7:42PM ( 2 years ago )
Friday Game Night
Wrestling: Area wrestlers take down next step toward Traditional titles
Northeast Georgia area wrestlers took the next step toward possible state titles Saturday in Traditional Sectionals held around the state...
11:08AM ( 16 hours from now )
STATE CHAMP: Jefferson's Porter wins GHSA 100 freestyle title
Jefferson’s Camille Porter had a big day Saturday at the 2016 Georgia High School Association swimming championships at the McCauley Aquatic Center at Georgia Tech... (PHOTO GALLERY FROM AREA COMPETITORS IN ATLANTA INCLUDED.)
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:51AM ( 10 hours ago )
Boys basketball: Riverside notches 8-AA's top seed, first state berth since 2009-10
The Riverside Military basketball team completed an impressive regular season on Saturday.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:06PM ( 19 hours ago )
Frazier leads Georgia past short-handed Auburn, 65-55
Georgia couldn't generate consistent offense and had only three scorers in double figures. Against a short-handed Auburn team, that was still enough for a runaway win.
By The Associated Press
9:51PM ( 21 hours ago )
Girls basketball: Branch closes out regular season in dominant fashion
The Flowery Branch girls basketball team kept rolling on Saturday, closing out the regular season in fashion that has become well familiar this campaign, swatting Apalachee 40-11.
By AccessWDUN Staff
8:02PM ( 22 hours ago )