MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - There’s been no shortage of excitement at Alabama State this week. The Hornets are gearing up for the Magic City Classic, the biggest HBCU rivalry in Alabama, but there’s plenty more on the line this weekend than just bragging rights.
The team spent the week working on last minute preparations before loading up and heading to Birmingham.
“This week, yelling has been at a minimum for myself because the players, you know they’ve been preparing for this moment to go up to Magic City Classic so you don’t have to say anything this week, you just have to calm them down and slow them down a little bit,” said Alabama State head coach Donald Hill-Eley.
The Hornets are coming off their best overall performance this season - a 42-17 win over Mississippi Valley State last Saturday. But Hill-Eley says there’s still some mistakes that need to be corrected before taking on a team like Alabama A&M.
“They’ve got a quarterback that can throw the ball around the field to about five receivers that can get open. I think we match up well, but again if the ball is in the air, we gotta take it down. We can’t let them sit back there and be comfortable - we’ve gotta heat up the kitchen and see if he can get those kind of things done with that heat on him.”
The Bulldogs enter this weekend’s rivalry having won the last two meetings, including that overtime thriller back in 2019. They’ve played just two games this spring, both of which ended in a win, so the key for Alabama State? Limit turnovers, minimize penalties, and expect the unexpected.
“We have a little bit more playing experience, so our guys should be more battle-tested, but when it lines down, some of those guys that have only been playing two games are gonna come out like they’ve played in ten,” said Hill-Eley. “That’s just what happens in this game - you see guys make plays that they’ve never made before. We can write it up however we want it, but it’s about those guys in the helmets and the plays that they want to make and the guys that want to get into the end zone and celebrate. So the focus is really on the players this week.”
A win this weekend would not only bring the Magic City Classic Trophy to Montgomery, it would also hand the Hornets the SWAC East Division Title.
“It’s a validation. I think we’ve built this program on stones and on concrete that’s going to last, but it’s no Betty Crocker - nothing is quick. This process will validate for the naysayers that we’re forreal, and that what you’re seeing is a championship team that will go for years to come,” said Hill-Eley.
A 6:30 kick at Legion Field. The game will air on ESPNU.