Two schools separated by a little more than 2 miles will play for the 20th time Friday, with all the pomp and circumstance sure to follow at the "Battle of Towne Lake."
In six of the last seven years, the game has been decided by less than one score, and both coaches expect another game to come down to the fourth quarter this week.
“I have no doubt it’s going to be a close game,” Etowah coach Dave Svehla said. “There’s nothing that happens in this game that surprises me anymore.”
Etowah (3-3, 1-0) earned its first Region 4AAAAAAA win last week with a last-second thriller at Cherokee and will be looking for two straight wins over Woodstock for the first time since 2010-11.
The passing game helped bring the Eagles back from down 21-7 last week and continues to be the most productive in the county. Quarterback Dalton Miller leads Cherokee County with 1,472 passing yards and 13 touchdowns, while wide receiver Jackson Manns leads the county with 36 receptions for 576 yards.
Brock Rechsteiner (four receiving touchdowns), Stephen Polazzo (two receiving touchdowns) and Blake Bohannon (two receiving touchdowns) have also been playmakers for Etowah this season, and Woodstock coach Brent Budde knows slowing down the Etowah offense will be a challenge.
“You've got to cover up their receivers obviously, but they run the ball really well, too,” Budde said. “There quarterback is passing at a really high rate, and they're going to complete their passes, but we’ve got to find a way to disrupt his rhythm.”
Woodstock (1-4) won its first game two weeks ago in a 14-13 win over North Forsyth and will enter this week’s game coming off its second and final bye week of the season.
Budde said he has seen continued improvement on both sides of the ball from his team, which is beginning its region schedule this week. Woodstock allowed North Forsyth to drive the ball in the game two weeks ago, but the Wolverines’ defense prevented the big play -- something that will again be a key facing Etowah’s offense.
Woodstock safety Michael Chelena is sixth in the county in tackles, and along with Georgia commit David Daniel, the Wolverines' secondary will be challenged against the Etowah receiving game. The difference in the game could come down to whether Woodstock can produce an effective pass-rush.
"I’ve been really impressed with how hard (Woodstock plays) on defense," Svehla said. "They’ve been really good at getting negative-yardage plays, and they’ve got some guys up front who can pressure the quarterback."
Budde has an aerial shot of the 2003 version of the Woodstock-Etowah game hanging on the wall behind his desk, and he said the growth of both schools and the Towne Lake community itself has allowed the rivalry to balloon since that time.
“We get a lot of people coming out and to watch,” Budde said. “It’s amazing, as both schools have grown, how many more people come out, and you’ll look at the stadium and there’s extra seating now. It’s always hard-fought and clean, and it’s usually close like most great rivalries. It’s just a lot of fun to be a part of.”