Basketball game moved to afternoon for safety reasons

After an ugly incident when the two high schools played a varsity football game on Oct. 5, officials at Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge decided to send a message — it won't happen again.

Tuesday's varsity basketball games between the two schools will be played at 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. at Peachtree Ridge. In addition, the varsity boys game will be first at 3 p.m., instead of its customary 7:30 p.m. slot. The junior varsity boys are at 6 p.m. and the JV girls at 7:30 p.m.

The decision is in response to a post-game brawl after the two schools played in football last season. The incident required the response of more than 20 police officers and involved more than 150 students to the Peachtree Ridge campus. Though injuries and arrests were few, nobody wanted a repeat of that drama Tuesday.

Gwinnett County Public Schools director of athletics, activities and community schools Mike Emery said the decision was made at the local school level between Collins Hill and Peachtree Ridge.

"It's a proactive effort on behalf of both schools to get kids at both schools to understand safety," Emery said. "Both schools had plans in place after the football game, but sometimes incidents happen. This was done to send a message. This should be about sportsmanship and a friendly rivalry, not an ugly rivalry.

"The games will go on, but there should be a guarantee that the games will be held in a safe atmosphere. We're not going to have disruptions like we had last time."

Moving game times up for safety is fairly common throughout the country. After a shooting incident, Norfolk (Va.) Public Schools decided in October to play high school football games during the daylight Saturday instead on Friday nights. In some places, it's gotten to the point where games are played with no fans.

But such a change is new for Gwinnett, which hasn't been forced into this decision before.

"I hope it's a one-time thing," Emery said. "Everybody would like varsity games to be at the end of the night like they've traditionally been. To do this hurts parents who can't get to games. It hurts the gate (game profit) and the athletic department. It hurts a lot of things.

"It's just a shame because 99 percent of the kids are great kids. ... Rivalries are great. And hopefully it will continue to be a great rivalry. But it should be a friendly rivalry where you're cheering more for your friends and less against the other team."