They are separated by 1 1/2 miles and a four-minute drive by car.

They’re neighbors.

Central High School, the last public school in Macon to win a state championship in football in 1975 and Mount de Sales, whose last football championship was in 1996, have played football in Macon since the 1920s. They’ve played either other in other sports, including baseball but have never met in football, even though at one point they shared a stadium. That stadium was Porter, near Mercer University. It has since been torn down, partly because Mount de Sales now has their own facility and Central plays their games in either Henderson, Thompson or Ed DeFore Sports Complex.

They shared Porter Stadium in the 70s and 80s before they moved.

They have never met in football, not even in a scrimmage-type situation.

Saturday afternoon at Mercer’s Five Star Stadium on the Macon campus, that all changes.

The neighbors finally meet.

Cavaliers and Chargers.

They will FINALLY meet in the first contest of the Macon Touchdown Club Classic at Mercer at 5 p.m. For the Chargers, it will be the first time they have set foot on an artifcial surface since 1975, when Gene Brodie and the Chargers traveled to Lakewood Stadium in Atlanta, playing Douglass High School on a somewhat chilly December Friday night in the GHSA State Championship, a championship they took home by 21-14 final.

Both teams have had their share of players make it to the next level. Central had L.T. Thomas, who played for the Pittsburgh Steelers in their “Steel Curtain” Days, while Mount de Sales had Ben Zambiazi, who continued his football career north of the border with the Hamilton TigerCats of the Canadian Football League (Thomas won three Super Bowl rings, playing from 1973 to 1981, missing the 1978 campaign; Zambiazi spent 10 years in the CFL from 1978 to 1988, taking home four Grey Cups, Canada’s answer to the Super Bowl and was on the CFL’s All Star team four times in that span.)

Both teams have a good understanding of their football pedigree and both teams and schools are finally looking forward to playing each other. They’ll go at each other for 48 minutes (four 12 minute quarters for those that are not familiar with high school football rules) and once the game is over, they’ll go back to being neighbors. One in the public world, the other embraced by the Diocese of Savannah and the Vatican. Their students and the student-athletes, band members and cheerleaders will return to school Monday morning and talk about the game.

The alumni that will hopefully be in attendance for both schools? They’ll talk about the game too and wonder why didn’t we play each other when we were in school. The students at both schools? They’ll talk about the game and wonder why the two teams have never played each other until now.

A school that was once named for Sidney Lanier, now known as Central and Mount de Sales, a school that was founded by the Sisters of Mercy from Baltimore, will meet on the gridiron Saturday afternoon.

Two neighbors with a lot of history between them, separated by only 1 1/2 miles, will finally meet Saturday afternoon.

Let’s hope they don’t take so long to meet again.

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