Sharpsburg, Ga - It might not be the oldest tradition in Georgia high school football, but the battle for the Brantley-Knott Jug might be the most unique. Newnan and East Coweta have been playing for the right to keep the jug since 2013, when legend has it, the jug (which is actually an old galvanized metal water cooler) was left unclaimed on the field after the game ended. Later, both teams argued over ownership of the strange barrel-like container, but couldn't substantiate their claims so the rippled cylinder soon became the prized possession of the game's yearly victor.
Just as the tug-o-war for the jug has grown in intensity, so has the rivalry between the Indians and Cougars-a game that was first played back in 1992 when former Georgia Tech and Atlanta Falcons linebacker Keith Brooking roamed the field for East Coweta. Over the years both sides have boasted excellent players, none greater than Newnan's own Alec Ogletree, currently starring at linebacker for the New York Giants. Ogletree and his twin brother Alex played in the rivalry game in the late 2000's, helping the Cougars reach the state semi-finals in back-to-back seasons.
"There's a lot of kinfolk on both sides, you know, cousins, a lot of different things like that. There's no doubt it's a huge rivalry," Said Newnan Head Coach Chip Walker who took over in 2017 after winning three state championships at Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone.
His coaching counterpart at East Coweta, former South Gwinnett head coach John Small agrees.
"It's a unique game," Small told High 5 Sports. "It's really a tossup, you know, crazy things happened last year in the game and I'm sure crazy things will happen this year. For a fan it's an unbelievable game to watch, and it's exciting for these kids to play in, and an honor to coach in."
The overall series stands 14-12 in favor of East Coweta, but the Cougars currently own the Brantley-Knott Jug after last year's 30-28 win at Drake Stadium. This season, the winner will improve their playoff seeding, and secure a second place finish in Region 2-7A behind the champion Westlake Lions.
What makes this season even more impressive for East Coweta, is that the Indians lost their first six games. A brutal non-region schedule began with a narrow two point defeat to the Kell Longhorns in the annual Corky Kell Classic inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, and continued with losses to traditional powers Carrollton, Lowndes, North Cobb and McEachern- all, with the exception of North Cobb, were ranked in the state.
"We could be 9-1, but he (Coach Small) had the backbone to schedule the best and help the kids understand what it means to face top tier programs," Said East Coweta Athletic Director Hap Hines. "You don't get to the Corky Kell Classic unless you have a coach that's well respected. We told John when we hired him that we didn't want a football team, we wanted a football program. He shared our vision of being invested in this community and building something long lasting."
Hines knows the rivalry as much as any other administrator, having worked at Newnan before recently accepting the athletic director role at East Coweta.
"I've gotten to see this rivalry from both sides and I think it's every bit as big as Parkview vs. Brookwood and other big games in the state. We're all about community. The Brantley-Knott Jug is a great example because it's named after long-time athletic trainers James "Radar" Brantley of Newnan and Lloyd Knott of East Coweta. These are men who helped define our community," said Hines.
The 27th meeting between the two schools will take place Friday night at Garland Shoemake Stadium on the East Coweta campus and our own Bill Hartman will be there to chronicle all the action of our Game of the Week. You can catch Bill's pregame reports live on FOX 5 News at 5 and 6 o'clock, followed by his game summary on the Big Show at 11p.m. Only one team will take home the jug-and the High 5 Sports Golden Hand Trophy when all is said and done!