BE A FACE IN THE CROWD AT RELIANT STADIUM SATURDAY OCT. 8
No one who took part in the excitement of the annual Stephen F. Austin versus Sam Houston State "Piney Woods" battle as one of the 24,685 fans at Reliant in 2010 will forget the excitement of last year's game.
From the tailgate party in the parking lot to the solid sea orange and purple filling Reliant's lower bowl to cheer for their favorite team during a narrow 31-28 SFA victory, the event was one to remember.
With a new title sponsor and even more thrills planned for the game, the 86th renewal of the oldest NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision rivalry in Texas on Saturday October 8, looks to top last year's event.
YP.com, the new Yellowpages.com, AT&T's flagship local search website, is teaming up with Lone Star Sports and Entertainment to host 86th "The Battle of the Piney Woods". As the title sponsor, YP.com will have a prominent presence throughout the event including signage on the field and throughout the stadium. YP.com will also have a significant role in on-field ceremonies prior to the game, at halftime and postgame.
Today's "Battle" marks the second event in a four-year partnership between the two schools and Lone Star Sports and Entertainment (LSSE).
"We are extremely excited to join forces with YP.com to continue bringing this great rivalry to Reliant Stadium," said Lone Star Sports & Entertainment general manager Heather Houston. "The Battle of the Piney Woods is one of the oldest and fiercest rivalries in Texas, and playing the game at a neutral site has made it a must-see event for fans of both schools."
The Bearkats versus Lumberjacks series dates back to 1923. Sam Houston State holds a 48-35-2 edge in the series, although Stephen F. Austin has won the last two meetings. For players and fans alike, the thrill of playing at the home of the NFL's Houston Texans is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
"Having the opportunity to play in an NFL arena is just tremendous," Stephen F. Austin junior defensive back Josh Aubrey of Tyler 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."
For members of both football teams, the aspect of the SHSU-SFA showdown at Reliant in 2010 that stands out occurred when the team took the field just before kickoff.
"What fired us up more than anything was when we came out of the locker room and found all those former Bearkat football players forming a human tunnel to welcome us onto the Reliant Stadium field," SHSU senior defensive end Eddie Decambre of Austin said. "We had no idea they were going to do that. Wow, that was so exciting."
During the 1930s, "The Battle of the Piney Woods" was an annual Thanksgiving Day football game. Prior to 1983, it was the season finale for both teams. The Kats and the Jacks settled on a mid-October date after both moved up to the NCAA Division I Southland Conference.
"No one understands what the 'Battle of the Piney Woods' rivalry means better than the players who have participated," Decambre said. "Those former players there in the tunnel to fire us up all have their own Piney Woods rivalry stories. You can't help getting fired up being around them. When I'm done playing, you know I'm coming back each year to be part of the tunnel and tell future players our stories."
Since 2007, the winner of the "Battle of the Piney Woods" has earned a 21-pound solid cedar trophy that displays replica pistols from Texas' frontier past. The logos from both universities are engraved on the handle of the pistols above name plates that will display the outcomes of the contest for the next two decades.
"Rivalries add to the excitement and pageantry of college athletics," SFA director of athletics Robert Hill said. "This game is one that the fans look forward to each and every season. Adding the rivalry trophy a few years ago has added even more excitement for the series."
The crowd of 24,685 fans last year at Reliant Stadium was the largest in Sam Houston-Stephen F. Austin series history. It also was the largest crowd for any Bearkat or Lumberjack game versus an NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
"I remember being excited as a young grad assistant here at Sam to have 4,000 people crowd into Pritchett Field to watch us play the Jacks in 1984," Bearkat head coach Willie Fritz said. "Wow. This was something. What a great experience for the players on both teams. Bobby Williams and Robert Hill, the athletic directors at both Sam Houston and SFA, and the people at Lone Star Sports Entertainment and the Texans are to be congratulated on putting on a first class event."
Game day started with a packed house at the pregame tailgate party in the Blue Lot south of Reliant. Fans already were in place at 10 a.m. and the crowd grew and grew.
"I was very surprised to see as many people," one Stephen F. Austin alumnus told a local reporter last October. "We arrive at 11 in the morning and there already were hundreds here. We've been to the tailgates both in Nacogdoches and Huntsville, but it's not on this level. It's a lot of fun and it's exciting. We saw friends we haven't seen in a while. We're definitely coming back next year."
The event provided a stage for Sam Houston State and Stephen F. Austin to gain exposure in a city in which more than 65,000 university alumni call home. The Bearkats and Lumberjacks were featured in interviews on all of the city's television, radio and newspaper media throughout the week.
"The game really brought everyone together," SFA junior wide receiver Cordell Roberson recalled. "Getting to talk to so many former players made us all proud. We look forward to seeing all those guys and more back this October and to seeing all that orange and purple in the stands. It's an intense rivalry and a game that is just epic."
Sam Houston student tickets are available once again for $5 through SHSU Student Activities. A total of 1,200 tickets are available at the discounted rate in a premium sideline section. These seats are available to all students, new purchasers and those that purchased last year.
The Westin Oaks Houston is Sam Houston StateUniversity's official hotel for the "Battle of the Piney Woods" presented by YP.com. For more information on special room rates for Bearkat fans the weekend of the "Battle Of Piney Woods" presented by YP.com please go to http://www.starwoodmeeting.com/Book/bpj07
For more information, please contact the Sam Houston State athletic ticket office at (936) 294-1729 or visit the ticket office which is located in the Ron Mafrige Field House at Elliott T. Bowers Stadium. Office hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.