The fourth annual Gulf Coast Challenge returns to Ladd-Peebles Stadium Saturday and will feature a matchup of two of the state’s top Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) teams in Tuskegee University and Alabama A&M. Kickoff for the game is set for 4 p.m.
Although the teams are from other locations in the state, there will still be some local flavor to the game. Both schools feature four players from the Mobile County-Baldwin County area. The Tuskegee roster includes punter Ryan Duff (Spanish Fort), defensive back R. Isaac Smith (Vigor), running back George Morris (Davidson) and defensive lineman Freddrick Austin (Vigor). The Alabama A&M roster includes offensive lineman Jonathan Williams (B.C. Rain), defensive tackle Jamal Irby (LeFlore), wide receiver Cameron Young (Daphne) and defensive tackle Khalil Yelding (Daphne).
Tuskegee’s Austin said he is looking forward to returning home to play this weekend.
“It’s going to be a very exciting experience, just coming back home and playing in front of my friends and family,” Austin said. “I know it’s going to feel a lot like playing in high school again because I’ve played so many games on that field. It’s going to be like, wow, now I’m back here in college.”
Austin, a 6-foot-0, 290-pounder, said one of his fondest memories of playing at Ladd-Peebles Stadium came during his senior year at Vigor in a game against Murphy. He said he hopes to relive the excitement of those high school games when he and his Tiger teammates face Alabama A&M on Saturday.
“Having two HBCUs known for so many things coming together, two great football teams coming together, it’s going to be a great matchup and should be very exciting,” Austin said of the game. He added the most difficult part of the game right now is off the field. “That’s the hardest part right now, trying the find tickets for all my family and friends,” he said.
A&M enters the game with a record of 2-0, having defeated Bethune-Cookman 30-27 last Thursday night. The Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) team is 1-0 in league play. Tuskegee enters the game off a 23-0 victory over Edward Waters last Saturday, but the Tigers lost their two games prior to meeting Edward Waters, placing the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) team at 1-2 for the year.
In the all-time series between the two teams, A&M holds a slight 25-21-4 victory, with one of Tuskegee’s wins being a 7-6 win by A&M in 2012 that was later vacated by the NCAA. The teams last met in 2014 with the Aggies winning 30-17.
“This weekend in Mobile, we welcome HBCU fall football back as undefeated Alabama A&M hosts Tuskegee,” Mobile Sports Authority Executive Director Danny Corte said. “This will be the sixth game the Mobile Sports Authority has hosted since we brought HBCU football back to our area in 2016.
“The matchup of Alabama A&M and Tuskegee should be a good one — for both the football teams and the bands — so we hope to see all the alumni and fans of both teams at Ladd-Peebles Stadium this weekend.”
The Gulf Coast Challenge is offering several other events along with the football game. On Wednesday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. there will be a College and Career Fair at the Mobile Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel downtown. Later that night, from 6-8 p.m., former “American Idol” winner Ruben Studdard will put on a concert at Cathedral Square.
The Thursday schedule features a Business Networking Reception at the Renaissance from 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Friday’s schedule starts with a Second Line parade, originating from Moe’s Original BBQ downtown, at 6 p.m., followed by a Greek Stroll exhibition in Cathedral Square starting at 7 p.m. Another concert, slated from 8-9 p.m., will also be held at Cathedral Square featuring the Ying Yang Twins.
Before the game kicks off on Saturday, there will be a parade downtown, starting at Warren and Congress streets. A Second Line parade will start at 3 p.m. at Ladd-Peebles Stadium prior to kickoff.
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