What It’s Like at a Huntingdon College football game

By on 26 October, 2015 in Kate and Stephen with 3 Comments

IMG_4351We all probably have our ways of telling non-Southerners about the importance that college football has here. They think they know, but they really don’t. They always underestimate the cultural importance of this particular vein of athletics, in this particular place that doesn’t dilute the passion with the stink of professional football.

For me, I enjoy telling people that loyalties to Alabama and Auburn are best imagined as our version of Sunni and Shiite, a totalizing cultural binary that requires newcomers to pick sides. Sure, you’ve got your minor sects of Troy and (soon-to-be-reborn) UAB, for example, but the totalizing power of the SEC (and major conference Division I football in general) often requires an analogy for outsiders to begin to grasp it.

You may have your own methods for describing our cultural norms, but for this writer, an Alabama fan long before I received an academic credential from that particular institution, I also sometimes tell people this fact: There is exciting and fun college football played within walking distance from our house. But because of pre-existing “brand loyalties,” I’d never once attended a local game. Until today.

Usually, if a Saturday in the fall is going to be even partially devoted to “amateur” football consumption, there is a predictable range of menu items. We might drive to Tuscaloosa for a game. We might hang out with friends and consume salty snacks dipped in various fattening spreads. We might sit at home and seal off the outside world while flipping between various channels, always muting the obnoxious commercials.

This portfolio of options, each of them with their own merits and drawbacks, had thus far prevented us from sating our healthy curiosity about what happens at Huntingdon College football games. Again, these games are played within walking distance from our house, and are substantially more affordable than the Flavian Amphitheater Scale Spectacle of “major” college games.

Finally, after years and years of making excuses, we finally left the house on a Saturday morning to catch a 1 p.m. game, where Huntingdon hosted the Methodist University Monarchs. Let’s run down a couple of facts about the game:

  1. Huntingdon and Methodist both play what is known as Division III football. The single most important way that this is different than what Alabama and Auburn do is that D3 players are not on athletic scholarships. Some say that this means that the most talented high school players will go to play at schools where their talents will be rewarded by free school tuition. Others might respond that this means that the level of play at D3 is more “pure” and does not resemble the bloated billion dollar monstrosity that modern college football has become. You don’t really have to have an opinion on this conversation to have a really fun time at a Huntingdon football game.
  2. The team Huntingdon was playing is based at a school in Fayetteville, NC. I include this information because I am often unfamiliar with the teams that Huntingdon plays against. As noted, I consider myself a fan of college football, and a fan of colleges themselves, so it’s amazing to see how many schools that are out there that you’ve never heard of. Many of those schools field football teams and are trying to win the Stagg Bowl, which is the D3 national championship game. This game was played for many years in Phenix City, Alabama.
  3. Huntingdon and Methodist both play in something called the USA South Athletic Conference. Despite the fact that Huntingdon is one of the smaller schools in the conference (Methodist has more than twice as many students), Huntingdon is one of the best football teams in the league. After Saturday’s win, Huntingdon’s record was 6-1, while the Monarchs fell to 3-4.
  4. Football is relatively new at Huntingdon. The Hawks have only played college football since 2003. They have steadily improved over the years, and it shouldn’t be forgotten that Huntingdon actually offers a surprising number of sports for a school its size.
  5. Finally, it’s worth noting that Huntingdon is coached by Mike Turk, who was one of my football heroes when I was growing up in Troy. Turk went to Jeff Davis here in Montgomery and was a scrappy, under-sized and smart quarterback who led Troy State University to not one, but TWO national championships (in 1984 and 1987). It’s great to see his success at Huntingdon, where he is also the Athletic Director.

But what about the game on Saturday? Well, to sum up: Huntingdon whipped Methodist handily, and the game was a lot of fun. The weather was lovely. Our tickets were $10 each. We bought a program that the sports information department clearly spent a lot of time working on. A bottle of Coke and a bottle of water set us back $4. The fans were enthusiastic, but respectful. And we got to witness a number of genuinely exciting plays.

One highlight was before the game, as we were exploring the area. We heard a marching band in the distance and saw that the “Marching Scarlet and Gray” was making its way from campus, down Fairview, to the stadium. Only a joyless monster doesn’t stop to look at a marching band or a fireworks display. As we watched them get closer, they suddenly stopped right in front of us, turned and started playing the Huntingdon fight song. We could pretty much reach out and touch the band members if we wanted (Note: We didn’t).

It was at that moment when we realized the difference in intimacy of the Huntingdon game and our usual college football experience. The band, the players, the parents and the fans — these were all just people like us, on a human scale, doing human-sized things. It’s easy to forget that in the swell of Bryant-Denny or Jordan-Hare, or watching Derrick Henry on your television.

The band was great, the majorettes were great, the cheerleaders were great, and the fans were great. Like the players, these were people engaging in an activity just because it’s fun. There was no cable TV broadcast, no advertising fueled pauses in the game, no drunken brawls at the tailgating.

A handful of D3 players may go pro one day. Fred Jackson of Coe College and Pierre Garcon of Mount Union College both play on Sundays. It’s not inconceivable that a Huntingdon player involved in Saturday’s 42-6 win might one day play at that level. But Saturday’s game wasn’t about that at all. The product on the field was well worth the price of admission, but it’s hard to put a price on what it means to be reminded of the common threads of the college campus in our neighborhood. We’re definitely planning on attending another game.

Kate and Stephen are Midtown residents with two cats, a dog, ten fish, a garden, an old house and a sense of adventure. They write about life in Midtown here and about life in Montgomery at their blog Lost in Montgomery.

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There Are 3 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Doris Scott says:

    Thank you for putting into words the wonderful experiences I have enjoyed since my grandson, Luke Bailey, came to Huntingdon in 2013! (Of course, as his 70yr old “nanny” I think he could be QB in some elite higher level FB program!) But His testimony is that he is where God wants him to be and I take him at his word!

  2. James Killian says:

    As a parent of a member of the Marching Scarlet and Gray, I appreciate and am thankful for such a great article. As HC parents we are so proud of the band, coaches, players, cheerleaders and majorettes and all that support these wonderful weekends.

  3. Brendon Brown says:

    Thank you for coming to the game and supporting our team. That game was part of my senior year and I’m glad we can get some support from the community. Hopefully The Hawks will continue to improve and make every game experience better than the one before so that we can continue to grow our fan base. Hawk’em

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