Chavius Jackson signed with Fort Valley out of Monroe High School in 2007, but the change in the coaching staff in 2009 brought him back to Albany, where he’s now a star for his hometown Rams, who will face his former team Saturday when the Rams and Wildcats square off. (Reginald Christian/Albany State University)
WHO: Fort Valley State (7-2, 5-1) vs. Albany State (6-3, 5-1).
WHAT: Fountain City Classic, East Division showdown.
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday.
RADIO: 98.1 FM.
LIVE UPDATES: Log onto: twitter.com/AlbHeraldSports.
ALBANY — Chavius Jackson knows things not many others do. He’s been on both sides of the Albany State-Fort Valley State rivalry.
Jackson, a Monroe High product who signed with Fort Valley in 2007, started at corner for FVSU in 2009 when the Wildcats beat the Golden Rams, 35-13, in the Fountain City Classic. After transferring back home to Albany State, Jackson is back in the Columbus Classic, this time wearing a different shade of familiar colors.
“It’s blue and gold versus blue and gold,” said Jackson, ASU’s senior free safety. “Both sides are going crazy. The atmosphere is awesome.”
This one is special for Jackson, who wanted to get out of town and experience college when he chose to play for the Wildcats. He said he enjoyed his experience in Fort Valley, but the change in coaching staffs after the ’09 season at FVSU led him back home.
“I loved my experience there, but when the next coaches came it was kind of like we were on different pages,” Jackson said of the hiring of former ASU offensive coordinator Donald Pittman and a new staff. “When I had the chance to come back and play for my hometown team I took advantage of it. (My ASU teammates) pull my leg about it a lot, too. They talk about sending me back to Fort Valley, but I love it.”
Jackson’s final Fountain City Classic — Saturday at 2 p.m. in Columbus — couldn’t be much bigger. The Rams (6-3, 5-1 in conference and No. 9 D-II Super Region Two rankings) and the Wildcats (7-2, 5-1 on conference and No. 7 in the region rankings) are tied atop the conference’s East Division standings. The winner moves on to play the West Division champ — Miles College clinches with a win Saturday — in Atlanta for the conference title Nov. 10.
“Huge week,” ASU head coach Mike White said Tuesday at practice. “It didn’t dawn on me until (Tuesday) at the (Fountain City Classic) press conference, if you don’t win this week, you have to turn your stuff in. I just never thought about it.”
Saturday’s loser is out of the playoff picture and out of the conference title game. It’s that simple, and Jackson knew if would likely be this big when he flipped to November at the beginning of the year.
“I’ve had my calendar marked since I left (Fort Valley),” Jackson said. “I’ve got a couple of (former) teammates up there. There’s going to be a lot of mess talking on the field. They know I’m ready.”
Albany State has won 17 of the 22 meetings with Fort Valley State since the Fountain City Classic moved to Columbus.
UNEXPECTED HOMECOMING: When ASU backup quarterback Keenan Grissett’s number was called last Saturday against Benedict, he couldn’t wait to get on the field back in Augusta. The former Augusta native who played at Cross Creek High came on in relief of starter David Kooi, who was just 3-for-7 passing for 41 yards in the first half before suffering a slight hip injury, and helped lead the Rams to a 24-13 win against the Tigers.
“My whole family and the people who used to watch me play in high school (were there),” said Grissett, who threw a go-ahead 37-yard touchdown before the half and also ran for 44 yards in the victory. “They saw I had gone down and was coming back from injury, so they didn’t expect for me to play. I really didn’t expect it much (either), but once my number was called, I just wanted to make sure I was ready.
“Being at home just gave me that extra boost.”
White said Kooi is the clear-cut starter for Saturday’s game but that Grissett’s timing last week couldn’t have been better, even though he wasn’t scripted to play despite being back in Augusta.
“He must have said his prayers or something the night before,” White said of the circumstances that led to Grissett playing in front of his hometown fans. “That worked out perfectly for him. He wanted to get in there so bad.”
Even if it is the last time he sees the field, Grissett said he’s glad the way it unfolded.
“To shine in front of your family and friends in what will (likely) be the last time they ever see you play, it was great,” he said Tuesday.
HEALTHY RAMS: White said Kooi told the staff he was “fine,” and practiced without limitations Tuesday ... Receiver Ronnie Tubbs, who missed the Benedict game, was also a full participant at practice and is on schedule to play Saturday ... “Everybody should be ready (to play against Fort Valley),” White said.