Valdosta State and Winston-Salem State, two consistent powers at the NCAA Division II level, will play at McEachern’s Walker Cantrell Stadium on Sept. 13 at 4 p.m.
It won’t be the first time a college football game has taken place in Cobb County. In 2010, Shorter and the University of the Cumberlands, two NAIA teams at the time, played at Harrison’s Bruce Cobleigh Stadium.
Next week’s game will be a rematch of the 2012 national championship, which saw Valdosta State win 35-7 in Florence, Ala. It’s the first of two games in two years between the Blazers and Rams set for McEachern.
Valdosta State, which went 6-4 last season and missed out on the Division II playoffs, will open its 2014 schedule Saturday by hosting Albany State.
Winston-Salem State, ranked 14th in the preseason coaches poll, went 10-2 last season and reached the playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Rams will open the season by hosting UNC Pembroke on Saturday.
Seven Valdosta State players will be returning to the Cobb County area when the team visits McEachern, including Sprayberry’s Tye Richardson and Jacob Chesser, McEachern’s Egim Etta-Tawo, North Cobb’s Trenton Pruett, Harrison’s Josh Adams and Kennesaw Mountain’s Scott Crawford, as well as Jack Bradley, an Acworth native who played at Blessed Trinity.
In all, the Blazers count 28 players on their 84-man roster as being metro-Atlanta natives.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to play in the Atlanta area,” Valdosta State coach David Dean said in a release. “With such a large number of players from the Atlanta area, in many respects, this is a home game for us. Throw in all of the Valdosta State alumni that live in the Atlanta area and we hope to have a large crowd at that game.”
Crawford is entering his second active season with the Blazers, though his fourth at Valdosta State. Injuries to both knees forced him to miss the 2011 and ’12 seasons.
A 6-foot-4, 245-pound offensive tackle, Crawford appeared in three games last season before reinjuring his left knee and missing the rest of the season.
Despite all his adversity and setbacks, Crawford is looking forward to playing at Cantrell Stadium again. He’s listed second on the depth chart at left tackle, while Adams is second at right tackle.
“I’m looking forward to the game,” Crawford said. “I played on that field three times, and I can’t wait to get back. The kid in front of me is a returning starter, so I’m battling to play behind him, but I think I’ll get a chance to play.”
Although Crawford wasn’t active because of his injury, he was on hand to see the Blazers win their national title in 2012.
“That was one of the best nights of my life,” Crawford said. “I was still recovering from knee injury, but it was a great experience to be there. I think we have a decent chance of winning again this season.”
Richardson is entering his first season at Valdosta State as a wide receiver after two years at Dean College in Massachusetts. A 6-foot, 185-pound junior is second on the depth chart at one of the receiver positions.
“I’m excited to play in front of the home crowd,” Richardson said. “We have a bunch of kids on the team from that area and we want to make sure we come out with a victory.
“They’ll expect me to contribute when I get on the field, so I hope to get that opportunity. Offenses are faster here than in junior college, but it hasn’t been hard to pick up on things.”