The schools sit 10 miles apart from each other, and over the last decade, Calhoun High School and Sonoraville High School have battled it out in a variety of sports.
Calhoun and Sonoraville have competed in Region 6 of Class AAA. Whenever the two teams get together, the stakes get turned up just a little bit more.
However, all of that could be changing. On Dec. 11, the Georgia High School Association Executive Committee denied Calhoun High School’s reclassification appeal, setting in motion the school’s jump from 3A to 5A at the beginning of the 2020-21 academic year.
Calhoun will move into Region 7-5A with some new faces. Blessed Trinity, Cartersville, Cass, Hiram and Woodland now become the new region opponents.
Sonoraville will remain in Region 6-AAA, but has some new kids joining the block. Gone are Calhoun and Haralson County. Their replacements? LaFayette and Rockmart.
If Calhoun and Sonoraville are to compete beyond the spring of 2020, it will be nonregion. So how can the rivalry, the atmosphere, the added emphasis (albeit nonregion) continue in 2020-21 and beyond?
We get some insight from Calhoun Athletic Director Brock Holley and Sonoraville AD Brent Mashburn.
One of the biggest questions is can it be scheduled. The answer is yes. Both athletic directors said it would be up to their coaches to make that happen.
“Usually our coaches are the main ones driving the creation of the schedule,” Holley said. “My stance and what I’m going to communicate to our coaches is that we’re open to playing anybody and if they feel like that’s a good fit for their team and their schedule, then they’re good to schedule.”
Mashburn echoed a similar situation, but added there will not be particular dates set aside, unlike those reserved for a team’s region opponents.
“Our coaches are at liberty to set schedules as they see fit for their program,” Mashburn said. “It’s going to take a coach of a sport here and a sport there both deciding that’s a good thing to happen and finding dates to work. There’s a lot of factors that go into just finding common dates when those aren’t readily made available for you with a region schedule.”
Mashburn is the current head coach of Sonoraville Phoenix Basketball. He said he would welcome scheduling a nonregion contest with Calhoun.
“Especially I think the basketball and probably football side of it, (with) those two it’s always a great atmosphere,” Mashburn said. “When we play, I think our kids enjoy competing against them. I think they bring out the best in us and I’d like to think we bring out the best in them. That’s always a good thing.”
Holley was an assistant to Yellow Jackets Basketball head coach Vince Layson from 2013-18. Holley said he remembers the battles against Mashburn’s Phoenix.
“They’ve got a strong athletic program,” Holley said. “Across the board, it’s pretty competitive in every sport. If it’s good for both programs and it’s good for fanbases, then we’re all for playing it. I think our goal as an athletic department and our coaches is that we’re focused on ... getting our team to execute to the highest level possible and continue to develop game in and game out.”
Mashburn noted Sonoraville’s struggles against their cross-town counterparts in the school’s infancy, but said in more recent years, the narrative has changed.
“Early on, when we were kind of a new school starting out, it was pretty one-sided,” Mashburn said. “I think as they say to be a true rivalry, both teams need to win their fair share of games for that really to be the case. We’ve done a pretty good job, especially over the last 5-6 years in most sports holding our own. I feel like we’ve gotten ourselves to a position where we’re able to compete at a pretty high level in a lot of different things.”
Mashburn said, from his perspective as a head coach, the atmosphere of a Calhoun vs. Sonoraville athletic event is intense, but fun.
“Like most ... schools that are close together, it’s a great atmosphere every time that we play,” Mashburn said. “Really doesn’t matter what sport it is. I think the intensity level and the atmosphere is what you look for in high school athletics.”
Holley said one Calhoun/Sonoraville nonregion meeting on the fall schedule is volleyball. However, no details are available yet as to when the programs would play one another.
“I think we’re open to scheduling anybody,” Holley said. “Obviously, there are some benefits to scheduling a local team. It reduces your travel. Being in Gordon County, Calhoun and Sonoraville have been in the same region now for the past couple of years.”
Given the schools and fanbases both reside within the county’s borders, Mashburn said that only adds to the prestige of Calhoun versus Sonoraville, regardless of the sport.
“Any time you’re competing against somebody in the same town that you’re in, it makes it a little more special and a little bit more fun when you play,” Mashburn said. “I think it would be no different, whether it’s a region game or nonregion game. In this case, it would be one that you’d very much want to come out on the good side of.”