They’re natural rivals in every respect but one: Brookwood almost always beats South Gwinnett.
In 2009, South Gwinnett interrupted Brookwood’s dominance in the battle of Snellville, winning 17-14 and ending a five-game losing streak to its main rival.
Friday night, South Gwinnett (4-1) is favored to do something it has never done -- beat Brookwood (4-1) in back-to-back years. Brookwood leads the series 22-4.
"These kids know the meaning of this ballgame, not just in terms of a region championship, but what it means to our community,’’ South Gwinnett coach John Small said. “We know as a school we’ve never beaten them back to back. Our goal is to make that change.’’
Members of Region 8-AAAAA, Brookwood and South Gwinnett are just 3.3 miles apart, and they were key figures in the rise of Gwinnett County football. Brookwood in 1988 became the first Gwinnett school to play for a state title in the highest classification. South Gwinnett was the second in 1993.
Starting with Brookwood in 1996, Gwinnett schools have won six state titles in the highest class. But South Gwinnett has gone missing from those glory years except for a few breakthrough seasons under coach T. McFerrin, whose most famous player was quarterback David Greene.
Small replaced McFerrin in 2005 and fielded four middling teams until his 2008 edition broke through with a 10-2 finish. Quarterback Kent Rollins threw for more than 2,000 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Small says it wasn’t so much new talent that brought about the upswing. It has been about character.
“Since we’ve come here, our philosophy has been the same,’’ Small said. “We’re going to start with character, and then we’re going to hit academics, and then we’ll hit football. Before we had some struggles and discipline things, but we never wavered. Now, we finally feel like we’re dealing with football. That’s the easy part.’’
The Comets are second in Class AAAAA in scoring at 42.8 points per game. Some of their scores the past two seasons resemble those from the Arena Football League -- 34-26, 44-41, 62-27 and 70-49.
Rollins is 71-of-133 passing for 958 yards and 11 touchdowns. He also has rushed for 369 yards. Running back Aaron Wimberly has 568 yards rushing and 195 receiving.
Brookwood, known for years strictly as a running, defensive-minded team, also has opened things up. The Broncos average 36.2 points. Nick Tompkins has rushed for 763 yards in five games, and they have preseason all-state receiver Andre Sims.
“To be an upper-echelon team, we have to beat these teams like Brookwood to get up there,’’ Small said. “We’ve been on the short end of the stick [in this rivalry], and we need to change that.’’