The athletes on the two teams — from Bartow, Cherokee, Douglas and Paulding counties — are considered the top senior players from their counties, and many will go on to play in college next year.
And while Saturday’s all-star game at McEachern High School in Powder Springs will serve as a final chance for the players to show their skills in a high school arena, some coaches are trying to make it a bit more than that by adding a community outreach event.
As part of the festivities leading up to Saturday’s game, Clint Shaw, director of operations for Cherokee’s football team, took a cue from the more-established Cobb Senior Bowl — an event put on by the same group behind the Georgia Northwest game — and put together an activity to bring together the standout players with special-needs children in the community.
The Cobb Senior Bowl, now in its seventh year, has long held a buddy bowling event. A similar event was planned for the Georgia Northwest players, but it was being held at a bowling alley in Dallas.
Shaw decided that it might be good to have a bowling event in Cherokee County as well, since the Titans — the combined force of Bartow and Cherokee counties — is practicing at Etowah this week.
Shaw reached out to Cherokee Lanes in Canton, which was quick to make lanes available. Shaw then contacted Special Olympics coordinators in the county and extended an invitation.
When the event was held Wednesday night, more than 40 football players were in attendance, along with about a half-dozen special-needs children, ranging in age from elementary school through high school.
“It was a successful event,” Shaw said. “The special-needs kids bowled right with the football players. We had athletes from Woodstock, Etowah, Sequoyah, Creekview, Cherokee, Cartersville, Woodland, Cass and Adairsville.”
Shaw, who also coordinates the Fan of the Week program which invites a different special-needs student to be a part of the Cherokee football team every week of the season, said he sees a future for the bowling event.
“I pretty sure this is something that will continue as long as the bowl game does,” he said.