This season, things have changed.
The teams are still playing, but for the first time since 2003, they won’t be colliding in the final game of the regular season.
This season, the names of the teams in Region 5-AAAA were thrown into a hat, and the region schedule for everyone was chosen at random.
For Troup and LaGrange, that means they’re playing not in the final week of the regular season, but in the second-to-last week.
While the game will be played on a different week, though, it’s importance hasn’t been diminished a bit.
It’s still LaGrange vs. Troup, and that’s really all that matters, but there’s so much more to the game this season.
The teams bring identical 3-2 region records into the game, and while the winner will have a great shot at earning a playoff spot, the loser will be staring at the very real possibility of being left on the outside of the playoff party.
LaGrange head coach Donnie Branch said this game, in essence, is a playoff game for his team.
“The kids will be excited. And they’re excited because this is a playoff game for us,” Branch said.
Troup head coach Lynn Kendall said the playoff implications of the game, beyond the rivalry aspect of it, is what makes it so important.
“The important thing is it’s the next game, and it’s a region game,” Kendall said. “You play that game and win, you don’t get two extra (wins). Coach Branch will have his guys ready to play, and of course we’ll be ready to play.”
As always, it will likely be standing-room only at Callaway Stadium, and there’s no doubt this game receives more attention than any other game throughout the year.
Branch said it’s important for the players to enjoy the moment, rather than let the stress of the situation become burdensome.
“You have to approach it like you’re going to have fun,” Branch said. “It’ll be a packed house. You come out loose, and you don’t do a bunch of thinking. You turn it loose and let it go.”
LaGrange is trying to snap a two-game losing streak in the series.
Before last season, Troup had never won two straight games over LaGrange, and now it’s going for three straight wins.
In 2010, Troup won 34-27, and it outlasted LaGrange 27-14 last year.
LaGrange’s last win in the series came in 2009 when it blanked Troup 42-0.
Also this week, Callaway will play a Thursday-night game at Callaway Stadium.
Callaway (7-1 overall) brings a 5-0 Region 4-AAA record into the game against Douglass (1-7, 0-5).
If Callaway wins, it will wrap up the region’s top seed for the state playoffs.
The Cavaliers have won seven straight games.
In private-school football this week, Lafayette Christian School will begin play in the state eight-man playoffs when it takes on Praise Academy in Powder Springs Friday night.
The Cougars are coming off a stellar 7-3 regular season that ended with last week’s 49-28 victory over North Georgia Christian.
In GISA football, the Dawson Street Christian School Wildcats will wrap up their regular season when they visit David Emanuel Academy Friday night.