Cramton Bowl schedule slam packed for 2015
G.W. Carver and Prattville will play on Sept. 25 as part of the busy schedule at Cramton Bowl this fall. (Staff Photo)
By Tim Gayle
It’s a daunting task, trying to cram five high school football programs into one venue.
In the past, it was a cooperative effort among the coaches at the high schools. These days, the task falls to Montgomery Public Schools athletic director Brandon Dean and trying to schedule five high school programs into Thursday and Friday night playing dates at Crampon Bowl is a chore no one envies.
“Mr. Dean, our system athletic director, has a tough task of trying to schedule five schools in one stadium and I believe he is doing an excellent job,” said Jeff Davis coach Lee Carter.
Carter has the biggest gripe among the five coaches as the 2015 football schedule was recently finalized. The Volunteers have six home games this fall but none are on Friday.
“I really do not know what to think about it,” Carter said. “I am just looking forward to competing. I believe two of our most exciting games of the 2014 season were not played at Crampon Bowl on a Friday night. Our Saturday game against Enterprise and our Friday night game against Central (Phoenix City) at (Alabama State’s) Hornet Stadium were great ballgames with exciting crowds. I honestly believe if I can put a great product on the field then our fans will come out and support us no matter where or when the game is played.”
But there’s no place like Cramton Bowl and nothing compares to a Friday night playing date. The local high schools revisited Hornet Stadium in 2014, marking the first time since G.W. Carver and B.T. Washington played there in the last 1960s. While the thought of playing games at Alabama State has some appeal, the Band-Aid fix isn’t a long-term remedy for five high schools in need of an additional playing site.
Dean said new football coach Brian Jenkins has talked to university administrators about using ASU Stadium. Former coach Reggie Barlow was in favor of a similar move but administrators proposed an exorbitant rental fee that local high schools couldn’t afford.
“The new guy is for all of us playing games on the main field,” Dean said. “He’s been working with the school to get us (a playing date) at a cheaper cost instead of the regular cost.”
Using Hornet Stadium (or ASU Stadium, for that matter) does allow teams to keep their games on Friday night instead of playing a Saturday afternoon contest at Cramton Bowl. Currently, there are four games scheduled for Saturday at Cramton Bowl – five if you count G.W. Carver’s meeting with Bob Jones in the preseason Champions Challenge – and it is up to each school to move the game to Friday at Alabama State or to the opponents’ home site if the Hornets are playing at home that week.
Both Sidney Lanier (vs. Rehobeth) and Jeff Davis (vs. Auburn High) have Sept. 12 games scheduled for Cramton Bowl, the same day Alabama State is playing host to Alcorn State in a crucial Southwestern Athletic Conference game at ASU Stadium. Lee’s game with Northview on Sept. 26 and the Jeff Davis-Prattville game on Oct. 3 could be moved to Hornet Stadium because Alabama State is on the road both weeks.
The Volunteers are the team with the least favorable schedule, getting hit with two Saturday games in addition to the 2015 season opener that was originally scheduled for Saturday before it was moved from Crampon Bowl to the home site of the opponent, Booker T. Washington.
“Last year, they played a game at Alabama State’s practice field and they enjoyed it,” Dean said. “We scheduled them for ASU again but this year Alabama State came out with a policy that you can’t play on their field the night before a (Hornet) home game.
“So they moved the BTW game up there.”
Carver coach Billy Gresham avoided one headache by moving his home game with Stanhope Elmore to Millbrook in mid-September on a weekend where three of the other four high schools were at home as well, but for the second consecutive year the Wolverines managed to avoid some of the same problems their city rivals encountered.
“I think everybody pretty much ironed it out on their own,” Gresham said. “It was (easier this year). We addressed it right after the season, as far as the scheduling. It really worked out well for us because we only had two true home games last year, so it wasn’t a big, big issue for me because most of the teams were home last year and now they’re away.”
The biggest complaint appears to be the intracity rivalries, which once were anchored on Friday nights. This year, traditional rivalries between Lanier and Lee, Lee and Jeff Davis, Jeff Davis and Lanier and Jeff Davis and Carver will all be played on a Thursday night, as well as Carver and Lee.
In fact, the only rivalries played on Friday night involve the city’s newest school, Park Crossing, which will play both Lanier and Carver on Friday night.
“This year, we flip-flopped the schedule and if you had a Thursday game (a year ago), it was on Friday this year,” Dean explained.
Park Crossing is the biggest benefactor of the 2015 schedule. While Lee, Jeff Davis and Carver all have four Thursday playing dates – which draws significantly fewer fans than a traditional Friday playing date – Park Crossing has just one.
Carver has just two Friday home games this fall, Lee has one and Jeff Davis, as already noted, has none. Park Crossing, on the other hand, has four. And while each of the other four city schools has at least one Saturday playing date, Park Crossing escaped that fate.
Dean hopes the dilemma, which will only be erased when another suitable home location is established, can be eased by realignment next season. Park Crossing is expected to move up from Class 6A to 7A and Sidney Lanier, currently a 5A school, may move back to its traditional position as a 6A school.
“That would be better for the schools,” Dean observed. “But the downside of that is by having the teams spread out (over three classifications and different regions as they currently are) allows them to compete and not against each other.”
For the second straight year, Carver and Lanier will not meet while the Poets will face Alabama Christian Academy in a historic game on Oct. 16. It will be the first time a non-city school from Montgomery plays at Cramton Bowl.
2015 Cramton Bowl Schedule
Jul 17 North-South All-Star Game
Aug. 20 R.E. Lee vs Sidney Lanier
Aug. 27 R.E. Lee vs G.W. Carver
Sept. 3 Dothan at Park Crossing
Sept. 10 Central-Phenix City at R.E. Lee
Sept. 17 R.E. Lee at Jeff Davis
Sept. 24 Jeff Davis vs Sidney Lanier
Oct. 1 Ch. Henderson at Sidney Lanier
Oct. 8 Smiths Station at Jeff Davis
Oct. 15 Dothan at G.W. Carver
Oct. 23 Wetumpka at G.W. Carver
Oct. 27 City Middle School Championship Game
Oct. 29 G.W. Carver vs Jeff Davis
Nov. 5-6 AHSAA Playoffs (TBA)
Dec. 4 AISA All-Star Game
Dec. 14 SIAC Championship Game (6 p.m.)
Dec. 19 Raycom Camellia Bowl (4:30 p.m.)