DALTON, Ga. (WRCB) -- The rivalry between Dalton and Calhoun is still relatively new to those who will be on the field this Friday night, but in the two North Georgia communities, the hate runs deep when it comes to football.
"I didn't really know what kind of rivalry it was until we started playing them again a few years ago," said Calhoun head coach Hal Lamb. "The older generation tells me every day how much they look forward to playing Dalton.
"The first time I beat them I think was in a scrimmage. Now that doesn't even count as beating them, but people were coming up and patting us on the backs for weeks."
The showdown will definitely count this week as the two traditional powers collide in the Friday Night Football Game of the Week.
The series has been dead even since the two schools resumed the rivalry in 2006, though Calhoun has won the past two years. That recent history shows the matchup will be a stiff season-opening test for each side, as three of those four games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Calhoun has won the last two meetings, with the victory serving as the first step on the road to the Class AA state championship in each of its last two seasons. But this year's Yellow Jackets will look significantly different than the powerhouse that marched to Atlanta a year ago.
Four Division I signees are gone, including wide receiver Da'Rick Rogers and quarterback Nash Nance who are both at the University of Tennessee.
"There's no question we've got some work to do replacing some people from last year, but I feel good about our football team," said Lamb.
The reason he's still positive is the return of running back Dustin Christian who rushed for more than 1,200 yards last year. The senior tailback will team with new quarterback Landon Curtis, who is hardly a new quarterback at all.
"My sophomore year I battled for the starting job and almost won it, then last year I battled Nash for it," Curtis said. "But I just stayed the course because I was always looking forward to my senior year and leading the team.
"I'm excited to be the guy everyone's looking to."
In Dalton, all eyes are on Land as he enters his first year as the Catamounts' head coach. He has plenty of holes to fill as well with the departure of defensive end and Georgia signee Jalen Fields, quarterback Stryker Brown, and fullback Shaquan Moore.
Both coaches spent the week wondering how their new faces will react under the Friday Night lights for the first time. The players, meanwhile, are staying out of each other's faces until then.
"I have friends there that I've played baseball with my whole life, and we'll seem them around town and won't say a word," Curtis said. "We just walk past them in silence.
"We'll be friends again after this week, but right now we're not friends at all."