Fresh off their 63-10 win over the Point Skyhawks last week, the Blazers (1-0) will hit the road for the first time this season when they face the Albany State Golden Rams (0-1) on Sept. 9 at 6 p.m. in Albany, Georgia.
Though they already have one game under their belt, this week marks the first “normal” week for the team.
The Blazers were unable to go through normal preparations for their season opener due to Hurricane Idalia, with head coach Tremaine Jackson saying that the team didn’t watch film after Tuesday.
Jackson believes Idalia, despite all the damage it caused, benefitted the team greatly by bringing the team closer together.
“We talked about having the desire to stay together and the desire to get it the right way, and those guys stayed together,” Jackson said. “Anytime you see something as drastic as a hurricane and guys are trying to stay and get work in and get ready for a game that we didn’t even know if we were going to play, it tells you something about the people in your organization, that they do want to be together. I think they had a good time with one another just being around each other, forced maybe, but they had a good time being around one another. It showed on Saturday by the way they played.”
Albany State enters the contest after suffering a 30-7 loss on the road to Wingate last Friday. It was their first game under first-time head coach Quinn Gray, who takes over a Golden Rams team that went 7-3 in 2022.
Even with the Golden Rams’ lopsided loss, Jackson isn’t taking Albany State lightly, citing the challenges that come with facing a historically Black university (HBCU).
“I don’t put a lot of stock into their loss last week,” Jackson said. “I think that this is a good football team, and then you have the pageantry of HBCU football, which I know all too well. Then, you add that it’s the home opener on their campus, six o’clock game. The band is going to be there. They’re going to have a lot of things in their favor, and so I’ll think they’ll be ready to go.”
The Golden Rams featured two quarterbacks during their loss to Wingate. Incumbent Dionte Bonneau started the game for Albany State, but Isaiah Knowles saw extensive action during the second half.
Bonneau went 9-16 for 82 yards while Knowles went 13-22 for 96 yards and a touchdown. Knowles also led the Golden Rams in rushing with 29 yards on just four carries.
Jackson is preparing the team for both quarterbacks.
“We got our hands full because we don’t know who to prepare for,” Jackson said. “[Bonneau] can pass the ball. He can run. Don’t let him fool you, he can run too. Then, they got the change of pace guy, [Knowles]. Every time he came into the game, he threw it a little bit, but he did scramble around and make some plays with his feet. They had almost a different style of offense for him.”
Jackson added: “We got to be prepared for both because we don’t know who we’ll see. We might see both of them ourselves. We’ve had to really open up the game plan defensively and make sure we are able to defend the running quarterback and not the running quarterback with every call that we make.”
Saturday’s game also marks the renewal of a regional rivalry between the two schools, which are separated by just 87 miles. The teams last played in 2021, a 21-3 win for the Blazers in Valdosta. The Blazers lead the all-time series 20-2.
“We respect Albany State to the upmost,” Jackson said. “We are going to play this rivalry game as though it’s a rival, and we’re going to do it the right way. Hopefully, our guys can be successful.”
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief. Photo courtesy of Austin Bruce.