Jeremy Mug

Friday’s now-annual Hog Mountain Bowl is not only meaningful this year, it’s for the region’s marbles. The last few seasons the game has carried a trophy and that’s cool.

The Hog Mountain Bowl trophy sits in the winning school for a year. I’ve walked into the office of North Oconee High School multiple times throughout the year and been reminded of their performance over the Warriors last season.

The raw emotion I saw as students poured out onto the field at Warrior Stadium to hoist that trophy made for some of the most memorable moments I witnessed in 2018.

No matter how I try and slice this. Friday’s game means more. The cliché ‘it’s just another game’ will only draw a flat out laugh from me.

If participants from both sides gave me the just another game spiel last season, I would probably buy it. Last season, both teams were playing for second.

This season, there’s a self-awarded trophy and a title on the line. Both teams are healthy. I don’t believe you all when you say it’s just another game. I don’t mind playing along and chuckling with you when you say it because I know it means more.

I know I wear the media hat today, but I played this game. I’ve felt the excitement for a chance to step out and earn what you’ve worked for on the field. By this time of the season many teams have accepted their fate.

Some are looking toward basketball season. Some are looking toward next August to try it again. Some are just done or wishing upon the play of someone else to crack the door for them to have a chance to play another day.

That’s the beauty of competition. Sometimes you can’t control your destiny and sometimes you walk out onto a field with only your brothers, your wits, your weapons and you make your own destiny come true.

That’s what Friday’s game really is. It’s two teams walking to center stage with failures of the past in the rearview and a pasture of prosperity out in front of them.

The only thing standing in front of them is that same group of guys that you’ve grown up playing against, your neighbors from down the street, the kids you hang with on the weekend that just live about 1,000 feet on the wrong side of the lines. Then there’s that kid that bragged all summer that they beat you last year, or two years ago or in the middle school championship game.

You hate him or you love him. Either way, someone familiar is standing in between you and your destiny. I’ve seen what these two programs have endured the last four seasons. I’ve been there chronicling it all. In a way I wouldn’t be upset if both of these teams could win.

They’d both deserve it. I watched the Titans go 0-10 in 2016. I also was there when the Titans made their loud statements a few different times last season.

I was there as promising starts for the Warriors were derailed by so many injuries that you began to wonder if luck would ever be on their side.

Both of them are here. They’re here for a reason and they deserve to be. This is the opportunity of a lifetime. Another game it is not.

Jeremy Johnson is the sports editor for The Oconee Enterprise. Opinions expressed are those of the writer.

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