Rivalry good for south Georgia

There’s been a lot of talk about how tonight’s football contest pitting Albany State University against its neighbor to the south, Valdosta State University, is just another game in a grand scheme of things.

That, more or less, is to appease football gods of superstition and, perhaps more importantly, to prevent the posting of motivational bulletin board material.

Both the Golden Rams of Albany State and the Blazers of Valdosta State want to win this game tonight at the ASU Coliseum. Badly.

Both teams have opened the season with 2-0 records, and both are nationally ranked — ASU, No. 6, and VSU, No. 12. The decision tonight will likely have implications on playoff aspirations for both teams.

But more than any of that, there is a sense of community pride that goes with the high score.

It’s an opportunity for the Rams to reverse the domination the Blazers have enjoyed in the competition between the two schools, which VSU leads 13-1. ASU was competitive in many of the games, but not successful enough to create a true rivalry.

That could change as early as tonight.

ASU is at a different level than it was during its lean years against VSU, a fact that was noted by VSU coach David Dean this week. “Their program is at a different level than it was in the early 2000s,” he said, observing that ASU would likely have cut into VSU’s gaudy series lead had the two universities played each other in the 2008-10 seasons.

“The stage is set,” ASU coach Mike White noted. “It should be a heightened game, unlike any other game we play this year.”

Albany State, expecting a capacity crowd tonight, is calling on Albany faithful to don their blue and gold at the stadium tonight in the hopes the crowd will be the 12th player that gives the home team that little extra edge. And in a game like this one, any possible advantage you can get is critical.

A rivalry between these two schools would be great for our region as they challenged for South Georgia bragging rights for the year. Football rivalries, where young men take the field with the pride of their respective communities sitting squarely on their shoulderpads, are as much a part of the South as red clay and blue holes, and thousands of fans hitting the 90-mile corridor between Albany and Valdosta would surely flock to this one.

Whether today’s game will lead to a renewal of the series and the launching of a new chapter in the schools’ football histories are questions that have not been answered. But there is electricity in the air right now and one thing is certain:

On a football night, it doesn’t get much more exciting than this.

— The Albany Herald Editorial Board