Brookstone's first football season was in 1972, but in the 40 seasons since then, the Cougars have never taken the field against Columbus High or any other Muscogee County public school.
That will change tonight at 7:30 at Rex Knight Stadium as Brookstone and Columbus face off on the gridiron for the first time. It's a matchup that while it seems natural, just had never happened for whatever reason.
"After last season, I talked to (Columbus head coach Phil Marino) and he thought we'd match up well and wanted a competitive non-region game," said former Brookstone coach Blair Harrison, who is now football coach and athletic director at Kingston (Tenn.) High School. "We both wanted to build some excitement in the Columbus area. Both schools have other rivals, but we wanted to build something and we thought playing each other would be a good way to do it."
Marino said he jumped at the opportunity to play Brookstone because even though Columbus is a Class AAAA-sized school and Brookstone is in Class A, the demographics of the respective schools' student bodies is similar.
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"I think Brookstone was wanting to play more local schools and when they asked if we had a Week 1 opening, I saw that we didn't and scheduled them," Marino said. "We're similar schools from an academic perspective and we have the same kinds of kids. Also, I thought it would make for a good gate for both of our schools."
Most of the schools in the Bi-City area open regular-season action tonight, including the traditional Heritage Bowl -- Spencer vs. Carver -- at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium. However, Marino still thinks the Columbus-Brookstone matchup will draw a sizable crowd.
"When it comes to scheduling, most people try to stay away from the week of Carver-Spencer," Marino said. "But we didn't think we'd lose much of our crowd to that game. I think there will be a big crowd. Both our schools always bring good crowds wherever we play and I think it'll be that way (tonight)."
Harrison, whose team hosts Scott County tonight after winning its first two games by a combined score of 70-7, said the game should be a good early-season measuring stick for both schools.
"When I was at Brookstone, we played Columbus and other schools in basketball," Harrison said. "I do know that both schools are good academically, have a good reputation and the only difference between the two is their size. It's the kind of matchup that'll be a good test to see where both teams are at this point in the season."
Marino expects the Cougars to give his team problems if the Blue Devils don't come ready to play tonight.
"Brookstone isn't just going to lay down for anybody," Marino said. "We're not going over there thinking we're going to dominate the game. We can't think that. Plus, with the new playoff system (in Class A), just playing us is going to help them in the power rankings and beating us would really help their playoff chances."
With the Georgia High School Association re-classifying its member schools every two years, the only thing that's guaranteed is that the Cougars and Blue Devils will square off tonight and again next year at Kinnett Stadium. However, Marino said he'd like to see the Columbus-Brookstone matchup become a long-term fixture on the schedule.
"I definitely would like to play them every year from here on out," said Marino. "As long as I'm here as head coach, I'd want to play them. A lot of it is about money and our football program has to make money to help pay for some of the other athletic programs, but I do think this is going to develop into something big."
Tonight's game will be the first as head coach at Brookstone for Brad Dehem. He replaced Harrison, who left after nine seasons and 73 wins.