Alpharetta, Ga - High 5 Sports heads to Alpharetta for an interesting matchup between two new schools Friday when the Denmark Danes host the Cherokee Bluff Bears in our Game of the Week.
The sprawling Denmark campus encompasses over one hundred acres in Forsyth County drawing its student population mainly from West Forsyth and South Forsyth high schools. According to Denmark principal Heather Gordy, much of the focus during the first two weeks of school has been helping the students create their own identity.
"We want to be known for being an inclusive school where kids feel connected." Gordy said. "We brought the students together with a welcoming rally on the first day of school, trying to get them to become Denmark Danes. We passed out t-shirts with the slogan 'the tradition begins with me' on the back. It's all part of helping them build their own culture and traditions."
The football tradition officially begins Friday night when head coach Terry Crowder, who won a state championship at Chattahoochee in 2010, charges onto the field behind a stable of Great Danes- and not all of them will be wearing football uniforms. Crowder's 5-month old adopted puppy, Denny, will join three other leashed Great Danes dashing onto the field in front of the cheerleaders, coaches and players in a tradition TRULY like no other. The live mascot idea started when the school selected an adult Great Dane named Thor to represent them- soon people associated with the program began adopting Great Danes of their own and they were invited to join the party. Crowder, who regularly brings Denny to school with him, says Great Danes hanging around the stadium is one of the favorite aspects of his new job.
"I love the live mascot thing. I'll tell ya, I wasn't sure I wanted to keep coaching, but this has been so much fun-challenging-but fun building something from the ground up," Crowder told us with Denny curled up beside him in the front seat of his car. "That's why this first game means so much to me, because of the ownership part."
It seems natural that Denmark would incorporate live dogs into their game day tradition because the school chose to include Veterinary Science as its "Unique Pathway"; a program designed to introduce students to careers associated with the care of animals. The career pathway program helps students explore vocations ranging from dog groomer to veterinarian.
Denmark is the 6th traditional high school in Forsyth County. Gordy, who was raised in Forsyth County, attended high school there and has worked for every high school in the county with the exception of North Forsyth, says Denmark had a "good feel" about it from the beginning, when a group of board members were trying to pick the school's name. They eventually took a poll and chose to name it after Leila Denmark, the legendary Forsyth County pediatrician who cared for children up and down the current Georgia 400 corridor during her 73-year career. Denmark lived to be 114 years old, and continued practicing until she was 103. What's in a name? Well, for Denmark High School it appears sustained success and dedication are both components.
And don't be surprised if early success on the football field is part of their plan as well. Crowder's team beat Pickens County 28-21 in a scrimmage game earlier this month.
"This is not your typical first year school," Crowder said. "We have a chance to be better than most startup schools"
That's thanks in part to what Crowder calls the "Big Five", a group of talented players that includes wide receiver Ze'vion Capers, guard Noah Mallard, linebacker/tight end Nick Carroza, linebacker/tight end Zach Birchfield and defensive end Arthur Marsden. That talented base of experienced players gives Denmark a fighting chance against more established programs in region 7-AAAA. The Danes have a challenging first-year varsity schedule that includes games with Flowery Branch, Marist and defending champion Blessed Trinity.
Cherokee Bluff opened their season with a 33-0 loss to Whitefield Academy, something head coach Tommy Jones isn't accustomed to after winning back-to-back region titles with Dacula in 2016 and 2017.
"It's probably the job I've loved the most and the job I've worked the hardest at," Jones told FOX 5's Cody Chaffins. "I'm just really excited about the opportunity to start something from scratch and to be a part of something special."
One team will have a special feeling on Friday night when they notch the first win in school history. Who will it be? Tune into High 5 Sports at 11 O'clock for the complete game story.