BY KRISTI REED
This Friday's game between Dacula High School and Mill Creek High School got a little more interesting this week thanks to an online war that pitted the two rivals against a common enemy - Newnan/LaGrange.
This week, Fox 5 Atlanta’s High 5 Sports held its first ever game of the week poll on the station’s web site. Visitors to the site could select one of five games. In addition to the Mill Creek v. Dacula game, voters could choose from LaGrange v. Newnan, Southwest DeKalb v. Martin Luther King Jr. High School, Mays v. Carver-Atlanta and Marist v. St. Pius.
By early Wednesday, over 12,000 votes had been cast in the online poll. By late afternoon, that number had risen to over 21,000. By 10 p.m., the vote total had jumped from 21,000 to 27,000. Mill Creek/Dacula, which had been leading by eight percentage points earlier in the day, had fallen behind by three percentage points. By six a.m. Thursday, the Newnan-Lagrange contingent had extended their lead by 17 percentage points with over 36,000 votes cast.
By the end of voting, over 41,100 votes had been cast. Newnan-LaGrange emerged victorious with 59.2 percent of the vote, but some Mill Creek and Dacula fans cried foul.
After receiving several calls and emails reporting apparent irregularities in the voting, Fox 5 executive sports producer Chip Zeller launched an investigation. The station's information technology department determined that the measures put in place to limit multiple votes by individuals had been bypassed and perhaps other means had been used to run up votes. Zeller said it could take up to a week to determine exactly what happened.
As a result, the votes have been discarded. Fox 5 will broadcast live from both games and the winning teams will receive spirit awards and other giveaways.
"We thought it was the best way to do it and the fairest way," Zeller said.
While disappointed that the voting procedures did not work as planned, Zeller said the interest in the online poll speaks well of the communities involved and their support of their local teams.
Fox 5 reporter Karen Graham will broadcast live from Friday's game. Highlights of the game will be shown on the evening news and on High 5 Sports Saturday.
Kickoff for Mill Creek and Dacula is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. in Hoschton.