Morehouse coach Rich Freeman was leaving his car at a repair shop off Northside Drive earlier this week when he ran into Clark Atlanta coach Kevin Weston.
“I told him, ‘It’s good to see you, because that means you’re not in your office working on us,’ ” Freeman said.
Those kinds of impromptu meetings are nothing new for the players and coaches who attend and work for the neighboring schools. Some of Freeman’s players even walk past Clark Atlanta’s football facilities on daily trips from their off-campus apartments to campus.
That intimacy adds intensity to the rivalry between Clark Atlanta (1-3, 0-2 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) and Morehouse (3-1, 1-0), which play for the 86th time at 2 p.m. Saturday at Panther Stadium.
“They’re our No. 1 opponent, but it’s a rivalry that’s handled the right way,” Weston said. “We have a lot of respect for them. We’ll get after each other when we play, but we’ll wish them good luck when they’re not playing us.”
The Panthers snapped Morehouse’s four-game winning series streak last year in Weston’s first season at Clark Atlanta, giving him perhaps a quick recruiting boost throughout Metro Atlanta.
More than half of the Morehouse roster and more than one-third of Clark Atlanta’s players are from the Atlanta area.
“Whoever wins this game, it does something for the community as a whole,” Freeman said. “There are so many Morehouse alums in the Atlanta area. It’s the same with Clark. And they will sell your school in recruiting. It’s word of mouth. It’s bragging rights. There are so many teachers and coaches in school systems who are alums of both schools, they do most of the talking for us. The kids know we’re coming before we get there.”
The Panthers will need to slow Morehouse’s Monqavious Johnson (M.L. King), who leads the SIAC in passing with 910 yards. He threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Central State, but struggled (152 yards) in last week’s win over Paine.
“We’ll take what the defense gives us,” Freeman said.
Clark Atlanta’s run-oriented offense has struggled scoring (14.5 points a game), but the Panthers lead the SIAC in rushing (212.2 yards) behind running backs Montavious Taylor (Carver), who has 301 yards, and Shaquan Mitchell (Dublin), who has 201.
Morehouse also is plus-7 in turnover margin, which is tied for ninth in Division II.
“This is a pride game. No doubt,” Clark Atlanta linebacker Bre’nard Williams (Tift County) said. “We’ll be ready for this.”
The wild, wild west
Will Hall took the West Georgia job last November after three successful years at West Alabama.
He faces his former team when the Wolves (4-0), No. 24 in the American Football Coaches Association Poll, play host to the 22nd-ranked Tigers (3-1) in the Gulf South Conference opener for both teams.
West Georgia’s defense has allowed only one offensive touchdown this season and hasn’t given up a score in its past 13 quarters.
The Wolves, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2000, held Clark Atlanta to 156 yards in last week’s 42-2 victory.
Around the state
Shorter’s 27-14 win over Mississippi College on Thursday was the first of three consecutive weekday games for the Hawks. They play at Delta State next Thursday and play host to West Alabama on Oct. 16. … The Hawks (3-1, 1-0 GSC) rushed for a season-high 365 yards on Thursday. … Reinhardt’s L.J. Stegall (Jeff Davis), who is eighth in NAIA with 485 rushing yards (97 a game), surpassed 1,000 for his career with a school-record 152 yards on Saturday. He has 1,141 yards for the second-year program. … Former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett, who helped the Buckeyes win the 2002 national championship and later served time for various crimes, shared his experiences with the Valdosta State football team and to fans at a school volleyball game this week. … Fort Valley State freshman Juan Serna (Douglas County), the SIAC special teams player of the week, kicked the game-winning field goal with 2.2 seconds left in a 33-30 victory over Benedict. He also had a 43-yard field goal, was 3-of-3 on PATs and punted seven times, with three downed inside the 20.