The Atlanta Falcons continued their popular annual "Friday Night Lights" scrimmage series at Peachtree Ridge High School in Gwinnett County on Friday, Aug. 3. The event is an extension of the Falcons preseason training camp, and 2012 marked the fifth consecutive year the Falcons have given their fans an up-close look of the team at a high school venue in Gwinnett County.
Previous scrimmages were held at Norcross High in 2011, North Gwinnett High in 2010, Brookwood High School in 2009 and Mill Creek High in 2008. Peachtree Ridge HS is near Duluth.
As with past years, the event was free to the public and included a small fan fest with inflatable games, sponsor booths, food, music, and autograph sessions. It was set up to as a festive atmosphere for fans to have an enjoyable night while getting a preview of their Falcons team.
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Cookiee Obligacion, from Lawrenceville, was certainly ready. She said she wanted to see an “explosion of enthusiasm” from both the fans and the players this season. On Twitter, @Atlanta_Falcons created conversation and gave fans an extra bit of digital candy using the hashtag #fnl12 (friday night lights 2012).
On the field, the football was more technical and situational than a traditional scrimmage. It followed a scripted sequence of warm-ups, drills, situational plays, and a short scrimmage. To help fans with analysis and to explain the drills, the Falcons broadcast team of Wes Durham and Dave Archer provided commentary from the field over the PA system.
The fans in the stands came from all around the surrounding area and each had their own set of expectations for the night and the season. Robert Hale, from Athens, arrived two hours before the gates opened. He said he wanted to “see how the offensive line is gelling together.” James Platt drove three hours from Eastman to see the scrimmage. He said that he is “hoping the team can take the next step and go deeper in the playoffs this year.”
The full 11 on 11 scrimmage was set up to allow the defense and offense to earn points for accomplishing certain things. For example, the defense earned points with plays like sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, knockdowns, etc. The offense earned points for things such as yards gained, receptions, first downs, etc. The coaches shuffled in players from the sidelines to work situations as well as getting entire units some repetition working together.
Fan favorites Matt Ryan and Roddy White did not disappoint during the evening. They hooked up on a long pass during one-on-one drills which electrified the crowd and had Wes Durham calling it like a Sunday afternoon. New addition Asante Samuel -- named “pick six 22” by Durham -- had a nice interception of a Ryan pass during the blitz drills.
After the scrimmage, the Falcons players moved to the sidelines to sign autographs for the fans. This was followed by a fireworks show to conclude the evening.
The Falcons open their preseason schedule Thursday night (Aug. 9) in the Georgia Dome against the Baltimore Ravens. They open the regular season Sept. 9 at Kansas City.