Erk Russell Classic
Today, Paulson Stadium
Jenkins County vs. Johnson
Metter vs. ECI
Last season, the Eagle Football Alumni Association had the idea to host a pair of high school football games to kick off the regular season a week before most teams get underway.
A great turnout showed up for both games and the association will keep the tradition going tonight as the Erk Russell Classic returns for its second season. This year’s classic will again feature a pair of games at Paulson Stadium. Jenkins County and Johnson County will square off at 5 p.m. with Metter and Emanuel County Institute slated for 8 p.m.
“We were glad that last year was a success and we’re excited to be able to put on this event again,” EFAA president Darryl Hopkins said. “We definitely want to get the best teams possible to come and participate. I think we’ve got some very good teams this year.”
For the superstitious, playing in the Erk Russell Classic might turn into a good luck charm. ECI defeated Metter in the inaugural game last season before storming to a 13-1 record and claiming the Class A public school state championship.
Even though today is the first game of the season for all four teams, at least three of them are already concerned with the postseason picture.
ECI, Johnson County and Jenkins County all participate in Class A, which enters its second season of using a computer rankings system to determine state playoff qualifiers. In this system, every game — not just region matchups, as is the case in other classifications — will hold weight in the race for the postseason.
“Every game is big, especially when you get to take part in a game like this,” Jenkins County coach Ashley Harden said. “We’re going to try and stay focused on the game at hand. I know it will be an exciting environment, but I think that our guys will settle in once the game starts.”
All proceeds will go to the EFAA and will help fund the Erk Russell Football Endowment which provides a scholarship for one Georgia Southern football player. Future Eagles might be playing their first game at Paulson tonight while some coaches —including Metter coach and 1989 and 1990 national championship winner Mike West — are former Eagles returning to their old stomping grounds.
“We weren’t necessarily targeting coaches who have played for Georgia Southern, but it’s great that things worked out that way,” Hopkins said. “We definitely love having those guys come back. Hopefully this event will continue to grow and we can look forward to this every year.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.