On an unseasonably warm November afternoon, Albany State continually turned up the heat on Fort Valley State and defeated the Wildcats 34-9 in the 28th edition of the Fountain City Classic.
The Golden Rams used a physical run game, timely scrambles and short passes across the middle to control the ball and gradually pull away from a Wildcat defense that had been pretty stout this season.
FVSU went into halftime trailing by only seven points. They were also set to receive the ball in the second half. Unfortunately for the Wildcat faithful, they were unable to establish any consistency all day offensively.
Meanwhile Albany State kept applying pressure on the young defense of the wildcats and eventually the dam broke. They were able to score 21 unanswered points in the second half before FVSU was able to record their first touchdown of the day on a 32-yard fumble return by Zacha Anderson.
Golden Rams kicker Gabriel Ballinas closed out the scoring with a 20-yard field goal late in the game as Albany State officially claimed the victory.
Down 3-0 in the first quarter, Wildcat kicker Juan Serna’s 51-yard field goal attempt came up short and fell into the hands of Albany State running back Kelan Fraise. After pacing in the end zone for what seemed like an uncomfortable amount of time, Fraise exploded out and was greeted by a well-executed blocking wall.
He returned the ball 78 yards, and three plays later, the Golden Rams punched it in from one yard out to score the first touchdown of the day and give them a 10-0 lead. That lead proved to be all that Albany State needed as they held the Wildcat offense to nine total points.
Albany State’s Kelias Williams: The freshman quarterback was a handful for the Wilcat defense whether he was throwing the ball or running it. He amassed 227 total yards and three touchdowns, including two rushing.
Fort Valley State’s Cameron Young: The sophomore defensive back was busy. He recorded nine total tackles, seven solo. Many of his tackles were crucial to keeping early points off the board.
Albany State has played their best football of the season versus the top competition. They now boast wins over Valdosta State, Fort Valley State and Tuskegee, who will play FVSU next week for the SIAC championship.
This win breaks the tie and gives Albany State a one-game lead in their head-to-head matchup. Both teams were 33-33-3 coming into this 28th Classic. The Golden Rams are now officially 34-33-3.
They said it
Albany State head coach Gabe Giardina on the win’s impact on the offseason: “I think it’s huge just for our morale and for our confidence as a team. And for all of the things we are trying to emphasize to our guys; doing things right, being on time, be a man and working hard. It paid off today and it’s good to be able to show the guys a tangible example of what happens when you do things right.”
Giardina on how close they are to competing for a championship: “It’s there. We just have to improve our competitive character and our sustainability when things get hard. Every game is going to be full of adversity at some point. We have to overcome that adversity and it’s a process it just doesn’t happen.”
Fort Valley State head coach Kevin Porter on his team underperforming: “You’ve got to give Albany State a lot of credit. They had their kids ready to play and they just outplayed us, really in every phase of the game. That’s on me. I have to do a better job of having my kids prepared to play no matter what the circumstances are, whether it counts or it doesn’t count.”
Porter on his team possibly looking past this team and at the conference championship game: “It’s hard to say but I’m of the mindset that every time you play you have an opportunity to play well and we didn’t play well. We’re fortunate that we have been able to take care of business and secure a spot in the championship game because today we didn’t have it.
Fort Valley will prepare for their matchup with Tuskegee University in the SIAC championship. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. on ESPN3.