Leaders from Dougherty High, Lee County and Albany State held a press conference Thursday morning at the Albany State Coliseum to help promote the second annual Hamp Smith Classic that is planned for Saturday evening in Albany. The football coaches and athletic directors of the two schools, along with a leading athlete from each team were on hand. Quarterback Kyle Toole was present for Lee County and running back Keonte’ Turner was on hand for Dougherty.

The high school football season in Albany will begin this weekend and the Hamp Smith Classic will feature the two-time defending state champion Lee County Trojans against the Dougherty Trojans Saturday evening at 7 p.m. Lee County is the host of the game, but it will be played at the Albany State University Coliseum in Albany. Last year’s event was a huge success as nearly every seat in the coliseum was full and officials want that to happen again.

Albany State University’s interim athletic director Jacqueline Nicholson moderated the event and welcomed members of the media.

“Hamp Smith loves football in southwest Georgia, and he loves Albany State,” she said. “He couldn’t be here today, but he will be here for Saturday’s game.”

“We are excited to be a part of this,” said Lee County athletic director Hank Wright. “We are grateful to be a part of something bigger than Lee County. We get to celebrate Coach (Hampton) Smith and help build our community. We appreciate the opportunity.”

While the event was a huge success for attendance, Dougherty fans are hoping the game will be more competitive after losing big to Lee County last season.

“We are excited about this opportunity,” said Dougherty athletic director Stephen Davis. “Hopefully this year we will have a better showing.”

Dougherty head coach Johnny Gilbert echoed those thoughts. Gilbert, a Monroe and Albany State quarterback, played under legendary coach Hamp Smith during his college days.

“When I took this job in April, I didn’t realize my first game would be against the two-time defending state champions of Class 6A,” he laughed. “But this will give us a great measuring stick to see where we are because our goal is to be state champions as well, so we have to get there. Our kids have been working really hard, so we looked forward to competing.”

Lee County’s head coach, Dean Fabrizio, is also ready to play and hopes to build the Hamp Smith Classic into an even larger event.

“Last year exceeded expectations,” Fabrizio said. “We are hoping to expand it at some point to be a showcase event for high school football and include more teams and maybe a multi-day event. This has been a vision for some years, and it is great to see this rolling. We want this to continue and make it even bigger.”

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