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Rivalry week at ASU

Albany State’s Bruce Ryles and Demonte Queen, right, tackle Wingate’s Chris Bowden during the first half of Saturday’s game at the ASU Coliseum.

Albany State’s Bruce Ryles and Demonte Queen, right, tackle Wingate’s Chris Bowden during the first half of Saturday’s game at the ASU Coliseum.

ALBANY -- Nobody around the Albany State football program needs to talk about the series record against Valdosta State.

The coaches know it. The players know it. The fans know it.

"(ASU head coach Mike White) ain't mentioned it," senior defensive end Antorio Wells said. "It's kind of imprinted (in our minds). We know the record. We're just coming out to play ball."

The Rams, ranked No. 6 in the AFCA Coaches' Poll, play host to No. 12 Valdosta State Saturday at 7 p.m.

If you missed the last decade, Valdosta State, which won two Division II national titles during that time, has gone 8-1 against White's Golden Rams and holds a 13-1 overall series record since the teams first played three decades ago.

The in-state D-II rivalry was discontinued in 2007 but picked up again for at least one year this offseason with hopes of renewing the south Georgia battle.

White, who wasn't available for comment Tuesday, last beat the Blazers in the 2004 season opener only to see his team devastated a few months later that season by Valdosta State in the quarterfinals of the playoffs.

Current ASU offensive coordinator Uyl Joyner was the quarterback on that '04 Rams team that beat the Blazers, 24-22, to open the season and then lost a 24-0 halftime lead at home in the playoffs ending his career with a 38-24 loss to Valdosta State, which went on to win the title.

Joyner is glad to see his old nemesis return to the ASU Coliseum to renew the rivalry.

"It's good," Joyner said. "Two down south (Georgia) teams playing against each other. They play the same brand of football we play. The game is going to be good for whatever economy -- Albany or Valdosta -- it's going to be good for that city."

So far this week, the Rams aren't making a big deal out of the non-conference test.

"It's the next game; the next team on the schedule," said senior safety Jarmarkus Gaskins. "It just means a few more fans are going to be in the building."

FRIENDLY FIRE: Being within two hours of each other, VSU and ASU recruit head-to-head and cross paths often off the field. Many of the players Saturday lining up across from each other played together in high school.

Rams wideout Orion Ponder and VSU wideout Quin Roberson were teammates at Colquitt County; VSU defensive tackle Larry Bryant played with ASU's Kareem Hess and Gaskins at Tift County High; Wells and VSU defensive tackle Tymon Hudson were teammates at Rome, and the list goes on.

"We hear them talking," Wells said. "They hear us talking. It's just the silence before the storm."

Joyner said the coaches would like to keep that to a minimum this week and hopefully just focus on football as game day approaches.

"A lot of our guys and their guys went to the same high school so there might be a little bit of talking back and forth between them guys," said Joyner, who went 1-2 as a player against VSU. "We've got to make sure we keep our foot on that so we can stay focused."

FAST STARTERS: The Rams have jumped out to 19-0 and 27-0 leads in their first two wins of the season against Savannah State and Wingate, respectively. Both games became close contests after ASU's leads shrunk, but the Rams have yet to run out of time without a lead.

"Teams are changing what they do (on offense) in the second half and we're having to make our adjustments," Gaskins said. "Once the fourth quarter rolls around it's 0-0. As long as it's a 'W' it doesn't matter."

Joyner has been pleased to see his offense respond after teams have cut into the leads the offense has built.

"We come out fast," Joyner said. "We've just got to start the second half the way we start the first half. (Wingate) scored twice to cut the lead to (two scores), but we came back and answered the call."

INJURY UPDATE: Joyner said there were no new injuries this week other than to say running back Kareem Hess will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing surgery on his injured knee. Hess also missed last season with an ACL tear.