2021 Week 0 (Georgia)

2021 Week 0 (Georgia)

The offseason wasn’t nearly as long as I thought it’d be. Though I wasn’t wrong on the dates, it still seemed to fly by. I did do a bit of work related travel. Saw a few baseball games along the way. Including games in Willmar, Minnesota and Spearfish, South Dakota. And I had considered once again starting my season in Utah. However, some personal reasons made me want to pass up a Utah/North Dakota split weekend for a trip with my daughter. I had been in between North Dakota, Minnesota, and Texas since mid-June. And I didn’t want to stay away for a very good reason.

My daughter has been wanting to go on a trip with me for quite some time. And, at her age I wasn’t quite sure how well she’d handle it. So, after deciding against Utah, I was thinking of sticking around Ohio for Week 0. But, a trip to Georgia, with my daughter, sounded like fun.

I was expecting to just go as a fan. Buy two tickets for each game, and spend time with my daughter. But, figured I should put in for a credential to cover the Corky Kell Classic. And if at worse, pay for my daughter’s ticket if she’s required to have one.

I was a bit surprised when my request was granted for both myself, _and_ my daughter to have passes for the games. If anything, the organizers of the Corky Kell Classic practice true southern hospitality.

So, I made plans to leave out on Tuesday. But, that’s over 700 miles in a day and a half. And my daughter hasn’t traveled by car for a long distance (over two hours) since she was an infant. So, I wanted to make sure she could handle the drive. So, instead, I decided to leave out on Monday. The first games being in Cumming, Georgia on Wednesday afternoon.

I had booked a hotel, rather cheaply, near Dacula that had an outdoor pool. A pool being a prerequisite for my daughter. And I promised we would get one. Only to find out while scouting hotels for the first two days of travel, that none of the outdoor pools were open for the season. So, I checked my hotel in Georgia. And, it too, was closed for the season. So, then I had to shop around. I finally found the first hotel with an open pool, an indoor pool, in Cumming at the Holiday Inn Express. A slight bump in price. From $220 to $420. Just to get the indoor pool.

We left out Monday morning, and made a quick drive east and south along I-376 to Robinson Twp. We stopped for lunch at Sushi Bomb. It’s a small all-you-can-eat sushi restaurant near the Robinson Town Centre Mall. So far, the first hour or so went well. We played I-Spy, and other games.

We stopped at the Walmart on I-79 just before the US19 in Sutton. There we bought a few supplies. Only to stop at a Dollar Tree in Summersville. In Beckley, we stopped for our first gas for the trip. And though it was early, we had driven just shy of half the trip. I looked around for hotels. And my daughter wanted a pool. And to my amazement, there was a Microtel that had an indoor pool and hot tub. I called, and they had it open. The room itself was only only $72 for the night. But most importantly it had a pool. We drove a few miles from the Kroger we stopped for gas at, back toward I-79 and the hotel.

The next day, we got a late start close to 11am. Driving south through the twin tunnels in Virginia and into Wytheville. Then it was I-81. And avoiding two long backups, we switched over to US11. Stopping at a McDonald’s for lunch. And then into Bristol. I had wanted to try a restaurant there, but the long delay on I-81 put us a bit behind and we settled on McDonald’s.

My daughter did think the castle was cool. Bristol Municipal Stadium is a must see for any football fan bucket list. After we stopped briefly to see the Motor Speedway in Bristol, we continued through heavy rain to Asheville, North Carolina. I had made reservations for Brasilia Steakhouse. A Brazilian steakhouse (go figure) in the heart of town.

They had just opened at 5, and we were the first ones in. In total, there were two other tables while we ate. The storm and clogged roadways in the areas, exacerbated by a few flooded or landslide blocked ways in or out of Asheville made travel unlikely for many. So, instead we had lamb chops. Though my daughter mostly ate cheese, rolls, tomatoes, grapes, a few pieces of filet.

While sitting at the restaurant, I booked a hotel room in Clayton, Georgia. Anticipating a short two hour drive to the small motel that was by far the cheapest in the area. Though lacking in a pool. Tuesday night was just to sleep. But, the aforementioned landslides played some havoc with plans and we got into Clayton about two hours later than I anticipated. Driving some back roads to avoid I-40 and then US74 and US23 into Georgia.

Wednesday morning, we were up about as early as expected. We were only an hour and a half north of West Forsyth High School. I had ordered a new tablet to be at the Verizon store in Cumming when I arrived. We got in around noon. Got the tablet. And then, in the same retail area, was our hotel. And between us, a Longhorn. So, we went for steaks for lunch. And then over to our hotel where we checked in a bit early to take a dip in the pool. Before heading the few miles over to the school.

We took a little longer than I anticipated and arrived at the school about 30 minutes prior to kickoff.

#1 – Cherokee v. Atlanta Mays

We got into the stadium without issue. And found out the teams hadn’t arrived yet. So, we waited. And waited. Until finally it was announced kickoff was iminent. Though, their posterboard quality press passes didn’t hold up to the sweat and humidity well. About halfway through the first game, mine had ripped from the lanyard eyelet cut into it.So, I just wedged it into my other credential’s plastic sleeve. But, did I mention the humidity?

With my daughter with me, we stuck to the southwest corner of the stadium where several large trees had provided shade onto the track and the turfed area beyond the south endzone. It made it moderately comfortable for us. And I hadn’t expected to move around a lot or get close to the sideline. The first game wasn’t the best matchup to start the weekend. Cherokee would go up 38-6 at the half. And win it, 52-6. During halftime, we went and got shaved ice from the concession stand and sat behind the visitor stands between them and the baseball field in the shade.

After the game, we went up into the stands to watch the second game as fans. The games were running long, and I was just hopeful that the second game would move a little quicker.

#2 – West Forsyth v. Atlanta Carver

To their credit, Carver didn’t give up. But, West Forsyth slowly wore them down. And with the second game approaching midnight while still in the third quarter, I opted to leave early. Not something I typically do. I usually stay to the end. But midnight with my daughter was a bit late. Even for vacation without bedtimes. Though, the game ended, 38-8 for the home side. Not many stuck around to the very end.

Up in the morning, we were planning for two more games in Dacula. About 20 miles away. So, it was back to the pool. And then, again, running late, we stopped for McDonald’s on the way to the game. Despite running behind, the game was postponed due to lightning. So, our urgency was unneeded.

#3 – Atlanta Westlake v. Archer

Because of the later start, I planned to stick to the stands for the first half. Then the field. Then the stands for the first half of the second game. And the second half would be whatever was needed. We got drinks while we waited for the game to start and when the stadium was clear to enter, went and found a spot on the Westlake side about halfway up near the band.

With daylight, I still got several good photos in the cloudy gloom. The field was drying out, we went down to the endzone corner again. Safely away for her and photographed the end. Westlake would win, 29-14.

Then went and got more drinks and M&Ms before heading up the other side. This time Tucker was playing at host Dacula (pronounced Duh-coo-lah, not like Dracula).

#4 – Dacula v. Tucker

We stuck to the stands through the first half. But by halftime we were back on the field. In the same endzone corner and shooting the tail end of the night game. Dacula had a fierce, 32-0 lead, and though Tucker scored to make it presentable, the game was not really in doubt.

It was then back to the hotel in Cumming again. Friday would just be a single game. Originally, the Corky Kell had a doubleheader scheduled. But for reasons unknown, the two games were moved to the host school’s site and split up. This meant the closest Friday night Corky Kell game was in Gainesville at 5:30pm.

So, after swimming, we stopped in at Longhorn, again, for steaks. And then the long, meandering drive to Gainesville took longer than I anticipated. The most efficient route was mostly two lane roads. But they weren’t that efficient. It also snaked us through an endless maze of varying one-way streets in town before arriving at City Park. The park in the center of town where the field was located.

As we entered, there was a playground off to the right my daughter saw. And I promised if the game ended early enough with light. That we would go over to it.

#5 – Gainesville v. Johns Creek

Gainesville is interesting. The field is compact. With large stands for the home side. It sits in a natural bowl lined with trees to the west. Providing ample shade. We didn’t even enter the field as I just stayed around the perimeter fence and my daughter played in the grass hillside dotted with trees.

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

I got one of my best photos on what would be a punt block for a safety late in the first half. With a 20 minute halftime on the horizon, as soon as was able, we made a pathway straight to the main gate and down the park road to the playground. I couldn’t see the scoreboard, but I could hear the bands play. We got back into the stadium a few seconds before the second half started. Though had to head to the concessions for water and Powerade. Which took us until midway through the third quarter. There’s a large promenade that overlooks the field. Also, a nice informational sign is situated in that endzone explaining how Gainesville got the name of “Red Elephants”.

We went back onto the field near the end of the third quarter. Johns Creek was only leading, 19-10, when the last score of the game made it 26-10. With 9:27 left. Before kickoff, there was a lightning delay and I decided to get ourselves to the car first even though weather itself was far enough out before rain would play an issue. I’m glad I did as we were halfway to the hotel when it was reported the game had been called and the final 9:27 would go unplayed. Johns Creek 26, Gainesville 10.

It was during the Gainesville game that @scoreatlanta had come across my updates and photos of the Gainesville game. Asking to use a few for the Corky Kell site. I agreed, and in exchange used their game recaps on PFN, saving me the hassle of writing and instead focusing on both photography and having a vacation with my daughter. I consider it a worthy trade. They also confirmed that I’d be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and offered me a press pass, and confirming I was already on the list when I replied back that I should already have one.

This made Saturday easier. As I was going to just do photos. No longer having to worry about then writing the articles. In exchange for a few photos from the games. Also, being invited down again next season. Something I wholeheartedly plan to do.

The next morning, was check out. And with the first game kicking off at 9am, that wasn’t happening. We did get out of the hotel by 9. And got into the stadium midway through the second quarter of the first game. A sacrilege I’m willing to accept since my daughter and I had breakfast first at the hotel.

#6 – McEachern v. Kell

This one was already lopsided when we got there. McEachern (Mick-Each-Urn, not Mick-Eck-Urn) was up 26-0. And it snowballed from there. McEachern would beat the Texas-inspired Kell Longhorns, 53-20. Including a Kell TD on the final play of the game.

#7 – Parkview v. Mill Creek

Now, having my daughter on the field at Mercedes-Benz Stadium was both fun and frustrating. Mostly because I was constantly worried about her. So, she stuck to the outer perimeter any time I was along the sideline. She had a tablet, a power brick, and her water. And I’d make frequent pauses in photography to go be with her. For this game, she fell asleep. So, I spent most of the game just sitting next to ther along the outer wall while watching the game through a sea of people or from the sky high ringed videoboard. I did get some photos in when I was comfortable she was okay behind me. Because of that, many of the updates were placeholder images I had taken since I didn’t get live action of the scores. The highlight of the game was a 56 yard Field Goal by Mill Creek. Mill Creek would win easily, 43-10.

#8 – Valdosta Lowndes v. Walton

Now, this was the game of the weekend. Other than Tucker, Lowndes was the only team this weekend I had seen previously. But it didn’t look like it was going to be a good game. Walton would go up two scores in the first 4+ minutes. Only for Lowndes to score twice to tie it at 14-14 after three. Then Walton scored on a 31 yard TD pass, and a breakaway 4th and 2 run for a TD to go up 28-14 with 1:50 left. Over, right?

Wrong. So, so wrong.

Lowndes would move the ball quickly and score. Then recover the onside kick. A long pass to the left side set them up with great field position. An 8 yard TD pass and PAT would tie the game.

In overtime, Lowndes would get the ball first and be forced to settle for a field goal. Only to miss. Then, Walton would score on a TD run and win, 34-28.

#9 – North Gwinnett v. Hoover (AL)

Though there were five games scheduled, I was only staying for four of them. I had anticipated traveling a few hours Saturday night after the 5:45 game ended. And then the rest of the way Sunday to home. But, that wasn’t happening. First, the games were taking much longer than forecast. So, even this fourth game was going to be well after 9pm. But we were just watching from the stands on this one.

Earlier in the day during free time we went up to the concourse and got Chik-Fil-A. Along with the bottomless $2 soft drinks. And later, before this game, got ice cream from Brusters, and tacos from another stand. As for the game, Hoover was dominant from the start. Though it wasn’t a blowout from the start, they just kept slowly extending their lead. It was after 9pm when the third quarter was ending. And I decided we had to make a run for it. So, we headed to the car and by the time we got to Acworth, the game was over. I used the parting shot of the stadium once the final score was set. Hoover won, 38-14.

We didn’t drive far. Acworth was just north of Atlanta. We ate at Cookout while trying to decide and settled on the Quality Inn in Acworth. This meant another night out on Monday night as the drive to Ohio was not going to be a quick one.

The next day, we stopped at another Brazilian Steakhouse, this time, Brazieros, in Knoxville for a late lunch. After that, we found a playground near a lake for her to burn off some energy. And then drove north into Kentucky following I-75. Stopping in Mount Vernon. Far shorter than I anticipated. But, we had spent quite a bit of time in the day.

On Monday, we drove the rest of the way home. Taking I-75 to Ohio, bypassing the under construction bridge in Cincinnati on I-275 and I-47. Then I-71 to I-76. Following that to home. Getting there in early evening.

All in all, the trip was a success. She wanted to spend a few more nights on vacation when she realized we were near home.


For the weekend, I expected to spend about $1000. Then upped it for the better hotel in Georgia. Spent $509.83 on food. Twice at Brazilian steakhouses, twice at Longhorn, once at Sushi Bomb, and the rest was mostly fast food. Hotels were $714.85. Total cost was $1471.31. All tolled, I drove 1,647 miles of the course of the 8 days for the trip.

Spent a little more than I usually would for a football trip. But, my daughter and I had a blast.

Photos of the Week

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia
56 yard field goal.

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

2021 HSF Wk 0 Georgia

Next Week

Because this is a week late, I already know what my Week 1 plans are and what they became. My original plans were 11 games in New Jersey. Instead, I went to Steubenville for a Thursday night game against New Philadelphia. Friday was my first time at Seneca. Saturday was at Kennedy Catholic and at Neshannock. Not wildly exotic like I had planned. But, what can you do when you reservations are canceled by the hotel and prices go up 375%?

2021 Statistics

9 Games
18 Teams
4 Stadiums
1 State

16 New Teams
4 New Stadiums

1,313 different teams
420 different stadiums

1,179 total games

For more, and larger, photos from this weekend, click HERE.

For photos from previous weeks and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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