COLUMBUS, Ga. — Columbus State University’s club sport tackle football team, off to its best start in recent history, is looking forward to its game against Fort Benning Oct. 24 in what is now being promoted as a community event.
As huge as that game has become for both teams, the Cougars, who are 3-0 and ranked No. 4 nationally, have some work to do beginning with their matchup with a South Carolina opponent, Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 13, at Columbus’ Britt David Park. CSU students with a valid ID get in free, and general admission is $3. The Cougars also have their final road game of the season, against Middle Georgia State College, currently the top-ranked club team in the nation, at 1 p.m. Oct. 19 in Cochran, Ga.
CSU won its most recent game, 34-28, against Kennesaw State last Sunday at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium, where the Cougars will host Fort Benning’s Doughboys for its final game of the season, the fourth annual Doughboy Bowl at 7 p.m.
CSU won its Sept. 28 game, also against KSU, but at Kennesaw’s campus, by a 30-20 margin. The Cougars opened their season in Columbia, S.C., with a 24-14 victory against the University of South Carolina club team.
Columbus State climbed from No. 8 to No. 4 this week in the “power rankings” of the National Club Football Association, an organization which tracks non-varsity tackle football activities of 26 member schools.
As one of 11 club sports, CSU’s football team represents the university in intercollegiate competition, but it’s not an NCAA-regulated varsity sport. Students participating in club sports handle much of their teams’ budgeting, scheduling, fundraising and organization, working closely with university officials.
Despite its winless record against a team of U.S. Army soldiers in the 3-year-old Doughboy Bowl series, CSU comes into this year’s contest with more confidence.
“The guys are really buying into what the coaches are telling them and the leadership is a lot better (compared to the past),” said head coach Michael Speight, also director of intramural and club sports for CSU Campus Recreation. “There is more team camaraderie this year.”
This is the fifth season of club football for CSU, and some of the players on the 37-man roster have been with the team two or three years, said Rick Cravens, also of Campus Recreation. That experience is apparently paying off.
“We have guys who know what it takes to get to that next level in competition,” Cravens said. “They are more dedicated and really want to win.”
Football returned to Fort Benning in 2010 with the first CSU-Army Doughboy Bowl. The Doughboys, initially comprised of soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Division’s 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, hosted CSU at historic Doughboy Stadium on the Army post. The Doughboys came out on top in the inaugural game, 29-13. Since then, Fort Benning has opened up its roster to soldiers from other units on post. Fort Benning won the last two games, with scores of 41-6 in 2011 and 32-16 last year.
Leadership from Fort Benning relishes the opportunity for soldiers to come together as an athletic team, for the change of pace it offers.
“It’s great to see our soldiers on a different kind of battlefield than what they have been used to over the past decade,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Richard Sullivan III. “The chance to represent the Army and Fort Benning in America’s favorite sport is a tremendous opportunity, and I am excited to watch the game.”
Officials from both sides said the opportunity to promote the relationship between the school and military post is one reason the game has been moved to the downtown stadium. There will be a tailgate party at the stadium from 5-7 p.m., with vendors, a cornhole (bean bag toss) competition, inflatables and other attractions. Top tailgate participants from Fort Benning and CSU will each win a grill, Cravens said. The Shaw High School marching band will perform at halftime.
The fourth annual Doughboy Bowl is free and open to the public.
“While you always like to have a home game, moving the game to downtown Columbus for the entire community to see is fitting,” Sullivan said. “We have an outstanding relationship with CSU and why not give everybody a chance to come out, tailgate with their neighbors and get a real sense of the spirit in this community.”
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