There's bound to be plenty of action tonight at Red Devil Stadium. But not all of it will be about football.
Tonight's match up pits the Loganville Red Devils against the Walnut Grove Warriors. This will be the first time these schools have played each other, but that doesn't exactly make the people of these schools strangers. As Loganville and Walnut Grove share many of the social circles that kids run in, many of the students of these schools know one another. Many grew up playing sports, worked after school jobs, or attend church together.
This is also true of their parents. Many of the parents of students in both schools attended high school at LHS, just down the road at the current Loganville Middle School.
"It's going to be really weird going to Loganville and sitting on the visitor's side" Said Nerissa Baker. She and her husband, Royce, both graduated LHS in 1990. Their oldest daughter, Drew, is now a sophomore at WGHS, and will be performing at halftime with the color guard. "It took a while to get used to the idea of our kids going somewhere besides Loganville" She said, "but we're green and black now, all the way. We'll be rooting for the Warriors."
Andrea Cryder has similar emotions. Cryder, a 1992 LHS graduate, raises her nephew, Garrett, who plays on the freshman team for the Warriors. But she says that tonight is about more than just a football game seeing old friends.
She is part of an ongoing effort by old classmates of Air Force Maj. W. David Gray. A 1992 LHS graduate, Gray was killed in the line of duty last month in Afghanistan. They will be raising money to help his family. There will be a silent auction going on during the game, conducted by members of his graduating class. Cryder and a few other classmates will be selling rally towels for both teams. "All the towels were donated, so that means 100 percent of the profit will go to the family." She said. "It's really touching to see how the community came together."
As for the game itself, both teams will be looking to chalk up their first win of the season. The Devils were delivered a crushing defeat by the Monroe Purple Hurricanes last week, while the Warriors lost at home to Woodbridge High School. When asked about the game, Walnut Grove Head Coach OJ Soto said that his team is ready for tonight's challenge.
"A good football team makes a lot of improvements between weeks one and two" He said. "We have a lot of players whose first high school game was last week. Last year, we lost our first, but learned from it and won our second game. Our goal is to win tonight, be 1 and 0 for this week"
Tonght's game is more personal than most. Soto is himself a 1992 LHS graduate, and a member of the 1991 squad that went to the state quarterfinals. Gray was also on that team.
"I don't ever want to forget about David. This whole thing breaks my heart, thinking about (Gray's wife) Heather and the kids," he said, when asked about his friend. "But I'm excited about tonight, to see the good that will come out of it."
Loganville Atheletic Director Tommy Stringer, who was the head coach of that 91 champion team, said none of the developments about Gray, nor the fact that Soto would be coaching the Warriors, factored into choosing tonight as alumni night. Alumni nights have typically seen little in attendance from former students who were more than a few years past graduation. Tonight's game is expected to draw a larger than usual crowd of alumni from the early 90's. The selection process has generally put it as the first home game of the season. Playing Walnut Grove for that game was incidental. "It just sort of worked out" Stringer said.