Valdosta State has thousands of alumni throughout metro Atlanta, leading school officials to try for years to schedule a football game somewhere in the area.
When they needed to complete this season’s schedule, Valdosta State athletic director Herb Reinhard turned to Winston-Salem State, which had a vacancy on the same Saturday.
“We talked about playing a home-and-home, but after a couple of conversations, we knew a home-and-home wouldn’t work,” he said.
A neutral site game in metro Atlanta was an attractive option for both programs, so they agreed on a two-year series to be played at McEachern High School’s Cantrell Stadium, which has a capacity of 12,500 and is considered one of the top facilities in the state.
Valdosta State (1-0), ranked 23rd in the AFCA Top 25, and No. 12 Winston-Salem State (1-0) will play at 4 p.m. today in what the school is calling the “Cobb County Clash.” It’s a rematch of the 2012 Division II national championship game, which the Blazers won 35-7.
“We’re excited to come to Atlanta to play,” Valdosta State coach David Dean said. “We have a lot of alumni in the Atlanta area. We have a lot of former players in Atlanta, who live and coach there. They don’t have an opportunity to watch us play because they’re coaching on Friday nights and have film work and other things on Saturdays. Coming to Atlanta is also special for all the Atlanta kids we have on the team.”
Reinhard said the programs agreed to an equal split of the receipts, after paying for the cost of game operations. He’s estimating a crowd of about 8-9,000, about equal to the 8,500 fans who attended last week’s season-opening win over Albany State.
Dean also would like to use the trip as an opportunity to showcase his team to Atlanta-area recruits. The Blazers have won three Division II national championships (2004, ’07 and ’12), but finished 6-4 last year and didn’t make the playoffs.
“This could be a good recruiting tool for us,” he said. “We’ve mass mailed everything out, so they know we’ll be in the area. Hopefully, they’ll come to the game.”
Playing at McEachern comes with a sacrifice.
Valdosta State – which plays its home games at Valdosta High’s Bazemore-Hyder Stadium — has only four home dates this fall and ends the season with three consecutive road games.
“We don’t have a lot of flexibility to take games out of town,” Reinhard said, “but this game made sense and was extremely attractive to us. This is one of the premier Division II matchups in the country.”
Wolfpack of runners: West Georgia is fourth in Division II in rushing after running for 392 yards in its victory over Mars Hill.
Brandon Lucas (Mundy’s Mill) led with 151 yards, but Seth Hinsley (Norcross) had 79 yards, Dallas Dickey (Carrollton) rushed for 77 and Denarius Appling (Griffin) added 71 on only four carries.
Around the state: Morehouse RB Cameron Fields, who transferred from Grand Valley State, is the SIAC specialist and newcomer of the week. He had 173 all-purpose yards in a 31-16 win over Edward Waters, returning four kicks for 135 yards and rushing for 39 on seven carries. … Albany State (10) and Tuskegee (nine) have combined to win 19 of the 22 SIAC championships since 1992. … West Georgia LB Tyrell Adams (Mays) is the GSC’s defensive player of the week after he had seven tackles, two sacks and recovered a fumble. … LaGrange WR Griffin Roelle (Lassiter) set a school record with 11 catches for 160 yards and two TDs in a 34-28 overtime win over Birmingham Southern. Teammate Larry Murdock (Ware County) set a school mark with 22 tackles in his first collegiate start.
Georgia Southern at Georgia Tech, noon
Kentucky Christian at Reinhardt, noon
Shorter at Mars Hill, 1 p.m.
Albany State vs. Tuskegee (Phenix City, Ala.), 2 p.m.
Lane at Clark Atlanta, 2 p.m.
Morehouse vs. Howard (RFK Stadium), 3:30 p.m.
Livingstone at Paine, 4 p.m.
Winston-Salem State vs. Valdosta State (McEachern High), 4 p.m.
Berry at LaGrange, 6 p.m.
Fort Valley State at Savannah State, 6 p.m.
Mercer at Stetson, 6 p.m.
Point at Concordia College, 6 p.m.
West Georgia at Miles, 7 p.m.
Georgia Military vs. ASA Brooklyn, 1 p.m. (Morgantown, W.Va.)