If you look at the Fort Valley State football record books you don’t notice much of a difference over the past two years compared to the previous seasons. For the second consecutive season, the Wildcats will compete in the SIAC conference championship game when they welcome Tuskegee University to Wildcat Stadium at 2 p.m. Saturday; an honor they’ve earned by claiming the East Division title.
Last season, despite an overall sub-.500 record, FVSU not only made it to the championship game, they won it. This season they are back to defend the title even though their 5-4 record would suggest a less than stellar season.
“Last year we inherited some seniors who were really hungry and really looking for a new direction so that helped us,” head coach Kevin Porter noted of the team’s success in his first two seasons. “This year we have just grown into it, trying to play better each week.”
The win/loss record was not the focus when Porter designed the schedule for this season.
“It was really important to us to schedule some really good opponents at the beginning of the season just to show our guys what it’s like to play at a high level,” Porter commented after clinching the SIAC East crown two weeks ago versus Morehouse.
The success of this program over the last two seasons has had a profound effect on the football team, the athletics program and the school community at large.
Darryl Pope, director of athletics for the past two seasons, can see the difference Porter is making in the team’s success.
“Since his arrival we’ve seen steady progress in the team to the extent that we probably progressed faster than we thought,” Pope commented. “Consistency has definitely been there and we’re very pleased.”
Athletics serves as the front porch of a school and football can set the tone for the year. So when the program is successful the reverberations are endless. More alumni are paying attention to the program again, more fans are in the seats at games and there is an overall positive feeling around the campus.
“When the most recognized department on campus is doing well, everyone does well because it gives everyone something to talk about and feel good about.” Pope said. “It gives us a voice beyond the campus grounds and this weekend is a perfect example. The athletics department is going to give the university a voice or some notoriety beyond Middle Georgia.”
The championship will be broadcast on ESPN3 and will give the Wildcats a chance to face a historic institution in Tuskegee.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to showcase our program,” Porter noted. “We are plying one of the great institutions not only in the United States but in the world. It’s a good opportunity for us to showcase our university, our athletic department and our football program on national television.”
Last season, they defeated Kentucky State 33-30. Tuskegee owned the best record in the West but was ineligible for the championship. This year, they are undefeated in the West and 8-1 overall. They also bring the notoriety of a world-renowned university but Porter knows at the end of the day there’s just one goal.
“It’s a football game for us first.” Porter stressed. “It’s a game that we’ve got to prepare for and be ready to go out and play against a team that’s playing at a really high level and playing with a lot of confidence.”