Annual Battle of the Piney Woods back at Reliant
Published: Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 4, 2012 01:10
In the 86th “Battle of the Piney Woods”, running back Tim Flanders took the handoff in the third quarter and discovered a seam down the right sideline. When Flanders turned the corner, he found himself face to face with a Lumberjack defender at the goal-line. His options were: a) run out of bounds, b) get tackled, or c) make national headline news. Mr. Flanders went with choice “c”. Without hesitancy, he leaped head first, as the impact of the defenders attempted tackle literally flipped Flanders head over heels into the end zone for the score. Christened “The Flanders Flip,” the touchdown not only lit up the scoreboard, but shed light on SHSU’s talent with a nation-wide response. The play soon became featured nationally as “Play of the Day No. 5″ on ESPN’s SportsCenter, received more than 100,000 hits on YouTube that week, and was even nominated for the GEICO Play of the Year.
This year, Bearkat football fans are expecting nothing less than greatness to continue.
The Battle of Piney Woods rivalry returns to Reliant Stadium in Houston for the third consecutive year this Saturday. It will be the 87th football clash between the two rivals. With Texas A&M's move to the SEC and the end of the Aggies' football series with Texas and Baylor, the series between Sam Houston and SFA becomes the fourth oldest continuous college football rivalry in Texas; and the second oldest FCS rivalry in the state. The infamous backyard dual dates back to 1923, with Sam Houston State holding a 49-35-2 edge in the all-time series. The Bearkats emerged victorious last year, winning 45-10, just a stepping stone to their historical, undefeated, and marquee-worthy 2011 season.
After averaging 24,884 fans in the first two games, Reliant extended their contract, keeping the Battle of the Piney Woods at Reliant Stadium through the 2017 season. Bearkat players are appreciative of the move, as the pro stadium is a fit venue for a rivalry of such epic proportions.
"Having the opportunity to play in an NFL arena is just tremendous," Sam Houston senior safety Kenneth Jenkins said. "Both our teams have so many Houston area alumni and students; Reliant Stadium is the perfect setting for this rivalry. Last year's crowd at Reliant was so loud; it was just a tremendous atmosphere."
This “Bearkatmosphere”, powered by a sea of orange and “Eat ‘em up” claws, will be countered by an SFA squad that is put together very well.
“We’re going to go against a very potent passing attack against SFA”, Coach Fritz said. “They’re going to throw the ball between sixty to seventy times when we play them, so we’ve got to do a good job in that area.”
The Lumberjacks, much like SHSU, started off with a challenging strength of schedule. They then opened up conference play with a 42-37 upset over Central Arkansas, who had beaten Sam Houston the week before. SFA wide receiver, Cordell Roberson, has been a force to be reckoned with, gripping anything that’s thrown in his general direction. He caught nine passes for 149 yards and a touchdown against UCA and has recorded four 100-yard performances in the team's five games this season. On pace to become the Southland's all-time leading receiver, he only lacks 38 more catches to surpass the record.
"Rivalries add to the excitement and pageantry of college athletics," Sam Houston director of athletics Bobby Williams said. "This game is one that the fans look forward to each and every season.”
There’s not a whole lot that this 87-year-old rivalry hasn’t seen. Nacogdoches city limit signs were uprooted in the ‘60s, causing left and right hooks to be thrown in the old Bearkat gym as the band played the school fight song in the background. In 1973, the year Sam Houston State University won the NAIA Basketball National Championship, SHSU was ranked number one in the Associated Press poll and number two in the United Press Independent poll. SFA was ranked number two in the AP poll, but number one in the UPI poll. A muddy brawl between the two schools broke out on Pritchett field in the 80’s. Jaw-dropping Bearkat plays have been featured on ESPN, while students sport t-shirts that read “SFA girls are ugly” and “SFA takes it in the AXE” . SHSU has been in the driver’s seat as of late, hoisting the trophy over their heads 9 of the last 12 meetings. The psychology of the color orange is often associated with energy, ambition, and attitude. The psychology of the color purple is associated with wealth, prosperity, and sophistication. But when these two colors clash, there’s no telling what you’ll come up with in 2012.