Local players come home for Fountain City Classic

For a handful of players, the football game between Albany State and Fort Valley State will be a homecoming.

There are brothers DeRon and LeRon Furr, former Carver stars, who joined Fort Valley State this season and will play in the Fountain City Classic for the first time.

Fort Valley redshirt freshman Brandon Baker (Northside) witnessed the event last year but didn't play.

On Albany State's team, Jagger Buggs (Harris County) and Cedric Ashe (Shaw) are both freshmen. While all five will be taking the field in the Classic for the first time, the fanfare isn't new to any of them.

"It's crazy to be playing in a game that I grew up watching," DeRon Furr said. "Every day, I wake up and just thank God for the opportunity to be here."

"It feels great," LeRon Furr agreed. "I never thought I'd be back home. Now that I've got the chance, I've got to take advantage of it."

"I grew up coming to this game," he added. "It was the talk of the town -- the athletes, the game, tailgating, everything. It's just great to be here."

All five said that, to some degree, they are accustomed to the intensity of the matchup. They grew up attending the game and feeling the atmosphere and emotion.

"This game's been going on many years before I was born," said Baker, adding that he watched the game as a kid. "But it's new to me -- participating in everything. It's just a great atmosphere."

Ashe said this is the first time he's been home, and he's excited to be able to have friends and family come see him play.

"It's always good to see familiar faces," he said. "It's a great experience, growing up in the area and being around the Classic. Now, to be a part of it, it's just pretty special."

Buggs said that he is familiar with the atmosphere, as well.

"It's always been a crazy rivalry," he said.

While the game may hold special meaning to them because of the opportunity to see family and friends and, for some, an opportunity to play in the same stadium they played in during high school, their minds are still focused on the game.

All five spoke of the importance of the game, not just as a rivalry, but because of the implications it holds for the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

"It's a big game no matter what," DeRon Furr said. "It's a rivalry. It doesn't matter what our record is. But this is win or go home, and no one is ready to go home."

"It's important," Baker added. "We want to go all the way this year."

Playing in the game for the first time and doing so in front of a crowd that already knows their names could make some of the local players a little more nervous.

But Buggs said he doesn't expect that to last.

"Being a freshman, I'll probably have some nerves," he said. "But by the end of the game, they'll be gone. We're going to end up on top. We're going to go to the championship."