David Nelson remembers when he and his Brookwood High School teammates arrived at Parkview Stadium before the Broncos’ 1987 playoff game with Clarke Central.
Looking out of the window as the team bus pulled up, they saw a big bronco painted at midfield, declaring the pitch as Bronco turf.
had shared the Panthers’ stadium as its home field since beginning a football program in 1982, but the décor had always been decidedly orange-and-blue, no matter who the home team was.
Nelson, who played strong safety in ’87, his senior year, said the Brookwood booster club must have received permission to re-do the field.
“I remember the Brookwood insignia was on the middle of the field until almost spring,” said Nelson, now an assistant football coach at Brookwood. “I remember them not being too happy about it.”
Fittingly, the annual Brookwood-Parkview football rivalry has left an indelible mark on Gwinnett County over the past three decades.
The two schools, which shared Parkview’s stadium from 1982 to 1989, will play for the 30th time this Friday at Brookwood, continuing one of the state’s fiercest football rivalries. Game time is 7:30 p.m., and it’s a good idea to get there early.
Born out of the explosive population growth in Lilburn and Snellville in the 1970’s and 80’s, the schools have been rivals from the beginning. When Brookwood opened in 1981, just five years after Parkview opened, it drew many of its students from its Lilburn neighbor, thus pitting kids who grew up together in competition against each other.
The so-called Battle of Five Forks-Trickum — a reference to the road that connects the two districts — is as good as it gets in high school athletics.
With it, you get two schools that mirror each other in athletic and academic achievement, passion from their student bodies and community drive for excellence.
“It is the epitome of what high schools rivalries are made from,” Brookwood Head Coach Mark Crews said. “The history of the game, the success of both programs and the strong support of both communities all add to the atmosphere of the annual game.”
“We always say that you can just about throw out past statistics and be prepared for a great rivalry game,” Parkview Head Coach Cecil Flowe added. That’s true; the first state championship seasons for both schools (Brookwood, 1996; Parkview, 1997) included losses in the Five Forks-Trickum game.
Friday’s game has plenty on the line, too. Parkview and Brookwood are tied for second in Region 8-AAAAA, and the winner will take an important step in securing home field in the first round of the playoffs.
I’ve attended around 10 Brookwood-Parkview games since my first in 1988, including last year’s 10-3 Brookwood win at Parkview and the 2002 state final, which the Panthers won 28-7, also at Parkview.
During that time, I’ve great games with much at stake, crowds of 10,000 or more, and a whole of emotion. I’ve seen these two schools lead the way for the rest of the county.
Grounded in academic excellence, the schools became the envy of others. Then, football joined in.
With six state titles (Parkview has four; Brookwood two), 11 appearances in the state championship game, and more than 500 wins between them, Brookwood and Parkview set the blueprint for other football programs to follow.
And, remarkably, it’s been with good, clean respect for each other (for the most part).
“I used to pull for Parkview to win when they didn’t play us … so that the game would mean even something more,” said Nelson, in his 18th year as a Brookwood coach and physics teacher. “We’ve got so much respect for Coach Flowe and what they’ve done over there. They’re a legend in Gwinnett County. We’d like to be considered in the same company.”
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