Georgia high school football has long been recognized for its statewide greatness and each December when the state championships roll around it is easy to see why. A competitive spirit emanates from every corner of the Peach State throughout the season, but its only during the state championships that programs take the stage together to compete for Georgia’s ultimate prize.
Eight decades have passed since the GHSA crowned the first Georgia state champion and while the tradition remains the same, the significant growth of the championship spotlight has strengthened it. The Georgia Dome provided Georgia high school football with a stage for twenty-five years, saying its farewell in December of 2016 with an eight-game, two-day marathon of state championship action. A total of 290 Georgia high school football games and 171 different schools shared the Dome’s spotlight over the years. Last year’s action got disrupted by severe weather, but now it’s finally Mercedes-Benz Stadium’s turn to host the full championship slate.
The breathtaking venue already has the pride of Georgia high school football built into its groundbreaking design. The helmet of every GHSA school can be found prominently displayed on the 100 concourse near section 130 with the GHSA Homegrown Legends Helmet Wall. This display was built off a tradition that started at the Georgia Dome, but more features and history have been included (there is also a key on each side of the wall to help fans find their team’s helmet). At the upper left of the helmet wall, each reigning state champion is represented. A Homegrown Legends display runs underneath the helmets at eye level for fans to enjoy photos and bits of history from some of the greatest players to ever come through Georgia high school football. The group includes five Pro Football Hall of Famers and other all-time greats like Johnson County’s Herschel Walker, Charlton County’s Champ Bailey and Creekside’s Eric Berry.
“I think it’s awesome,” said GHSA Executive Director Robin Hines. “The helmet wall is tremendous and the memorabilia is also exciting to look at. There is so much state pride and history on that wall. One of my favorite pieces is former Falcons running back William Andrews’ Thomasville High School letter sweater. That’s my home school and it’s special to see the pride of Georgia high school football built into this incredible stadium.”
THE ROAD TO ATLANTA
This year, only four of the 16 teams that punched their championship tickets are Metro Atlanta schools. Centered right in the heart of downtown Atlanta, Mercedes-Benz Stadium offers spectacular views of the southeastern metropolis—which can be enjoyed throughout the naturally-lit concourses and out of the 163- foot-high entrance known as the Window to the City. This picturesque backdrop will make this year’s state championships feel like they are being played right in the heart of Atlanta and an exciting new era for Georgia high school football can kick off at last.
“This is the ultimate venue in all the world,” said Hines. “The whole experience is going to be incredible.”