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Local teams highlight Erk Russell Classic
Prep Football
Football players TJ Frison of Portal, right, Statesboro's Jordan Lovett, left, Southeast Bulloch's Terry Mikell, center left, and Ramon Perry of Twiggs County talk football while coaches and organizers interview with the local news media during a press conference on Tuesday, July 19 for the Annual Erk Russell Classic at Paulson Stadium. The 11th annual Classic will feature all three Bulloch County public high schools for the first time. - photo by By SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Bulloch County will be well represented at next month’s Erk Russell Classic. The 11th annual undertaking of what has become the official start of prep football in the Statesboro area will take place Saturday, Aug. 27 with Portal taking on Twiggs County at 6 p.m. and Statesboro High and Southeast Bulloch scheduled to take place at 9 p.m. Both games will be played at Paulson Stadium on the Georgia Southern University campus. 


The Blue Devils of Statesboro have played in the Classic three times and Bulloch Academy took on Pinewood a few years ago. This will be the first time in the event for Portal and Southeast Bulloch. According to committee member Daryl Hopkins having three schools from Bulloch County was a big factor in this year’s decision. 


“We toss up a lot of teams when we think about playing the Erk Russell Classic,” said Hopkins. “The matchups are very important. We really wanted to give all the Bulloch County teams a chance to play here and we actually moved it back a little later than usual to make sure we could accommodate all of them. We had already counted on Statesboro and Southeast Bulloch and then Portal athletic director Justin Chester got a hold of me and it just worked out well to get them all in. We are hopeful the whole county comes out to support these schools.” 


The Erk Russell Classic will mark the first time Statesboro High and Southeast Bulloch have met on the football field field in something aside from a  scrimmage game. With the two schools now separated by only one classification both head coaches foresee this becoming a more permanent matchup in the future. 


“We were fortunate enough to be able to play last year and we are excited to be able to come back this year as well,” said Statesboro coach Jeff Kaiser. “It was a tremendous experience for our kids last year and was great for our fans, bands and cheerleaders as well. Not many high school players get a chance to play in a venue like this. There is no excuse we shouldn’t have a packed house without anyone else playing in the county. I can see Southeast Bulloch climbing to 5-A or 6-A so I really think it’s time to start this up as the schools are now so similar in size.” 


“I think this is just a great opportunity for our county and our school and especially our players,” said Southeast Bulloch coach Jared Zito. “Everyone knows the history of Georgia Southern and Erk Russell and it is an honor to be able to play in this game. When I took the job, I tried to find out who are rival was and no one could really come up with a specific team. With our schools getting closer in size, I feel like Statesboro would be a natural rival and I think we will get a great crowd out to watch the game.” 


For Portal head coach Jason McEachin coming off a couple rough seasons he sees playing in the Erk Russell Classic as a great opportunity for his team to get some great exposure as well as possibly gaining some momentum going into the year. 


“This gives our players and student body a chance to be on a stage they have never been on before,” said McEachin. “We have a lot of people in our community who have been coming to Georgia Southern games for years, and to get a chance to see their son or grandson or neighbor be able to play on that same field is just such a great opportunity. It is also a great thing for our band and cheerleaders to experience. We are playing this year on a couple Thursday nights as we continue to try and give our kids a better chance to be seen.”  


Tickets can be purchased through any of the three Bulloch County school’s athletic departments and there will be tables set up at various Bulloch elementary school’s open house nights. Tickets are $10 pre-sale and $15 at the gate.