Prep Football: East Coweta vs. Newnan ultimately decided on field


First year starting quarterbacks Bailey Bryant of Newnan, at left, and Bryce Gemmell of East Coweta have each thrown for over 1,200 yards this season heading into tonight’s annual game between the Cougars and Indians in Sharpsburg.

It’s been an interesting week to say the least at the Kesselring household, where the annual football game between Newnan-East Coweta has seen a secession from navy and gold to gold and purple.
While in his first year as East Coweta’s new athletic director, former Cougars football assistant Ken Kesselring still shares a house with daughter Alex, a Newnan High student.
Unlike some of this week’s more heated exchanges off the field between fan bases, the one between father and daughter has been jovial as the two programs prepare to meet tonight at Garland Shoemake Stadium in Sharpsburg for the 21st time since the series began in 1992.
“It’s been big this week,” said Kesselring, who was hired at Newnan by former head coach Robert Herring and coached last year’s Cougar offensive line. “A couple of my former linemen called me [Wednesday] and I told them jokingly, ‘Oh yeah, our defensive line just ran right over our backup center. That’s going to be you guys.’”
He isn’t alone when it comes to a setting that can put neighbors — and even family members — on opposite sides for one Friday night out of the year.
Tonight’s matchup will again feature brothers Carl and Ray McKnight lending their voices to respective radio networks of the Indians and Cougars football programs.
“I remember one game where Carl and Ray weren’t standing that far apart and they’re talking about the same play, arguing a call for their team,” said younger brother Jim, whose son Jay is a junior starting linebacker for East Coweta this year. “It was like they were having an argument with one another on the radio. Welcome to my world.”

Sister Alice, often donning purple to games, is married to Newnan defensive line coach Chris Ramsey, whose job is to make sure his players cause havoc to the Indians offensive front tonight.

On the field, however, tonight is as much about bragging rights as it is about gaining an upper-hand for next week’s Class AAAAAA playoffs. A pair of 3-1 lineups are battling for second place in the region and a first-round game at home next Friday.

The Cougars (7-2) have won five of their last six games heading into tonight including a 24-0 shutout of Westlake last Friday. Both losses have come against region winners in Sandy Creek (9-0) and Langston Hughes (8-1).

Newnan is also looking to counter back after last year’s disappointing 28-25 loss to East Coweta at Drake Stadium after taking a 19-0 lead into halftime.

We are resilient, we have put ourselves in position to come back in games. “We have put ourselves in a position to host a first-round playoff game if we can we, and that is always big,” Newnan head coach Mike McDonald told the Times-Herald this week. “You are always excited at the beginning of the year, and then things become a little bit repetitive, but now we sort of feel like we are heading into our second season. You ought to be excited this time of year.

Both teams opened the year with a pair of first-year quarterbacks not knowing exactly what to expect.

Both Cougar sophomore Bailey Bryant and Indians junior Bryce Gemmel have excelled, each throwing for over 1,200-yards while improving each week. It’ll be the first action, however, in what can be a raucous setting among rivals.

East Coweta head coach Clint Wade, who coached briefly at Newnan before arriving in Sharpsburg as Danny Cronic’s defensive coordinator in the 1990s, has been a part of every outcome in the football rivalry.

“That’s what this game’s about. It’s nights like Friday night, playing against your crosstown rival and going for second place and home field advantage,” he said this week. “That’s the way it ought to be with these young men. That’s part of the adversities they’re going to face later on. We’ve gotten better in a lot of areas, but we’ve got a long way to go. Overall, they’re doing everything we’ve asked of them. It’s not because of lack of effort.”

The numbers between the two schools have been near identical. At 4-5 overall, East Coweta, which has won three of its last four games after a 1-4 start, is averaging nearly 23 points a game and Newnan just under 24. Both teams are also allowing around three scores.

“There’s no secrets,” said Wade. “We know each other. It’s a football game, you’ve got to go out and play football. It’s about blocking and tackling and playing to a level higher than you ever thought you could achieve.”

East Coweta - Newnan Series Results 
(East Coweta leads Series 11-9)
2011:  East Coweta 28, Newnan 25
2010: Newnan 14, East Coweta 12
2009: Newnan 43, East Coweta 26
2008: Newnan 12, East Coweta 0
2007: Newnan 19, East Coweta 11
2006: Newnan 17, East Coweta 14
2005: Newnan 66, East Coweta 35
2004: Newnan 15, East Coweta 7
2003: Newnan 17, East Coweta 14
2002: East Coweta 14, Newnan 0
2001: East Coweta  31 Newnan 19
2000: East Coweta, 38, Newnan 17
1999: East Coweta 27, Newnan 23
1998: East Coweta 28, Newnan 9
1997: East Coweta 21  Newnan 14
1996: East Coweta 19, Newnan 3
1995: East Coweta 37, Newnan 12
1994: East Coweta 21, Newnan 3
1993: East Coweta 17, Newnan 0
1992: Newnan 27, East Coweta 0

(Sports writer Doug Gorman contributed to this story)

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