After years of debates for and against it, the Georgia High School Association settled on hosting its state football championship games at neutral sites in 2008.
The neutral site this year will be a new one for most of Georgia’s high school teams — Georgia State Stadium, formerly Turner Field, in Atlanta. The venue, which hosted Atlanta Braves baseball from 1997-2016 and the 1996 Olympics, will provide a memorable experience for the high school teams, while also giving Georgia State University’s football program a chance to show off its facilities.
The games are scheduled for Friday, Dec. 13 and Saturday, Dec. 14.
“We are very excited to host the best high school football players and coaches in the state of Georgia and show off Georgia State Stadium,” Georgia State head football coach Shawn Elliott said earlier this month. “Eight state champions will be crowned in this great facility, and it will be a first-class experience for everyone involved.”
A few Gwinnett programs already have experience at Georgia State Stadium thanks to the Corky Kell Classic, which hosted games there in 2017 and 2018. The 2017 games included Archer, Brookwood, Buford, Mill Creek, Norcross and North Gwinnett, while Archer and Buford also played at GSU in the 2018 event.
Georgia State isn’t a Corky Kell host this year as the Atlanta-based games are at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Coolray Field in Lawrenceville.
The GHSA has experienced issues with Mercedes-Benz — it replaced high school football’s previous neutral site home, the Georgia Dome — the past two seasons. Six of the eight title games in 2017 were postponed because wintry weather made travel to Atlanta undesirable. Those games were played at local high school venues, including at North Gwinnett, which defeated Colquitt County for the championship.
Last year’s high school football title games were forced out of their weekend slots by primary tenant Atlanta United’s Major League Soccer playoff game. Those games were played at Mercedes-Benz, but were pushed to a Tuesday and a Wednesday.
“Charlie Cobb at Georgia State University has been tremendously supportive in planning with the GHSA an event that will provide a first-class experience for our student athletes and benefit our participating schools,” GHSA executive director Robin Hines said. “We look forward to our partnership with Georgia State University.”
Georgia State Stadium also provides more of a high school football feel because it’s an outdoor venue, like the state championship game participants’ previous 14 games. Its capacity of slightly more than 24,000 is a better fit for expected crowds rather than the cavernous Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which seats more than 71,000.
“We thank Dr. Hines and the Georgia High School Association,” Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb said in a press release. “Georgia State is honored to host the eight GHSA state championships this December. It is exciting for us to know that the culminating point for high school football throughout the state is Georgia State Stadium. Our staff will showcase a first-class experience for the players, coaches and fans of the participating teams.”
The Friday, Dec. 13 schedule begins with the Class A Private title game at 10 a.m., followed by AA at 1 p.m. The AAAAA finals are at 4:30 p.m., and the AAAAAA finals are at 8 p.m.
On Saturday, Dec. 14, the 10 a.m. game is A Public, followed by AAA at 1 p.m. and AAAA at 4:30 p.m. The nightcap is the AAAAAAA title game at 8 p.m.