New trophy named for longtime trainers hopes to add even more heat to intense rivalry

by Chris Goltermann


Longtime athletic trainers and colleagues James 'Radar' Brantley of Newnan High (left) and Lloyd Knott of East Coweta stand with the Brantley-Knott Water Cooler Trophy, which will be awarded annually to the winner of each football game between the Cougars and Indians starting with this year's game on Friday at Newnan's Drake Stadium.

Whether it involves the forging of a great ring of Middle Earth or the great high school football game of Coweta County, a myth can sometimes be the product of history.

And after 21 previous meetings, the rivalry that is East Coweta-Newnan has produced plenty of the latter.

So why not spice up what has been a see-saw affair the past three years even more with a material 'trophy' that can be showcased throughout the year?

The college game has its share of rivalry trophies to mark the seasons, The Golden Egg, The Skillet and The Little Brown Jug included. Axes, wooden turtles and even shillelagh's have been passed back and forth through history between Division I programs, with some of their origins evolving into their own tall tales.

Which is how the Brantley-Knott Water Cooler comes into play for the 22nd annual football game between rival schools in a game that already has giant playoff implications from Region 3-AAAAAA.

Both teams would like nothing better to hoist it on Friday night. The Indians (4-5, 2-2) have dropped two straight region games and can't afford another loss, especially if Douglas County (3-6, 1-3) can defeat winless Tri-Cities (0-8-1) to maintain a head-to-head tiebreaker for the No. 4 seed out of 3-AAAAAA.

A win is just as important for Newnan (6-3, 3-1), which would fall into third place with a loss behind East Coweta.

The story behind establishing a keepsake for the annual football winner between schools is as much a melting pot of history and a bit of mythos that may find itself revised and reshaped in the years to come.

But the two men that it's named after are as true to the rivalry as any coach or player to wear navy or purple since the annual game began in 1992.

Longtime trainers James 'Radar' Brantley of Newnan and Lloyd Knott of East Coweta are among just a handful of people that have experienced victory and defeat after every contest in a series that has the Indians holding a slim 11-10 advantage heading into Friday with East Coweta needing a victory just to clinch a state-playoff berth in Class AAAAAA and Newnan hoping to lock up what could be a crucial home-field advantage for next week's opening round. When an old metal Igloo cooler was donated to Newnan High assistant Hap Hines from a fan who found it approximately midway between Friday's host site at Drake Stadium and East Coweta High in a lake (remember the myth aspect here), his first thought was to see what could possibly be done about turning it into a trophy for the winner of the annual football game.

Had it been around since the start, it would have stayed put a lot longer at both schools than the last three seasons. East Coweta, after dropping the first game of the budding football rivalry, won 10 straight before Newnan reeled off eight wins of its own from 2003-2010.

Since then, however, the Indians and Cougars have traded wins, each on the opponent's home field. East Coweta won 28-25 at Drake Stadium while Newnan defeated the Indians 21-7 in last year's game at Garland Shoemake Stadium.

'Hap brought it to me at one of our softball games and said take a look at this and tell me what you think,' said Newnan Director of Athletics Steve Allen. 'He said somebody had found it between here and East Coweta and said let's start a tradition where the team that wins it can keep it the entire year.'

After a couple coats of paint - half navy and half purple - and the marking of yearly wins on each side in gold by the Newnan High Art Department, 'The Jug,' as it has also been nicknamed, was fitted with a plated inscription naming it fittingly 'The Brantley-Knott Water Cooler, Established 2013.'

'These are the two guys who have been here for the whole rivalry,' said Hines, who otherwise shied away from his part in its creation. 'That's why we're doing this.'

Meanwhile Brantley and Knott, whose schedules haven't eased much since their retirements from teaching last December, were just as surprised at the honor after finding out just hours before the trophy was unveiled for the first time.

'We didn't know anything about it until now,' said Knott.

While students of opposing high schools have taken to social media in full force this week in a war of words, Brantley and Knott were two peas in a pod, going through their pregame talk about what the setup among training tables would be for Friday.

'We'll talk, especially if he's coming to East Coweta to see what he needs, where he wants the training tables and stuff,' Knott said. 'If somebody gets hurt, we'll both go out there and check.'

While maybe not able to rattle off every victory in the series, the two recalled several games that brought the duo onto the field to attend to major injuries, one of which included a broken leg.

'I remember that night,' Brantley said.

A rare chance to catch up in person during the week of the annual game brought about as much cheerful banter as a couple of fraternity brothers as the two looked out upon the field at Drake Stadium on Tuesday.

'Everybody thinks we don't like each other,' said Brantley, who came to his colleagues rescue moments later after Knott's car battery failed, calling for a set of jumper cables on campus. 'See,' Brantley said afterwards, 'we work together. Just not this Friday night.'

Tickets for Friday's game at Drake Stadium are on sale all week at Redneck Gourmet on the Newnan Square for $7.

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