St. James, Montgomery Academy move 2020 opener to Huntingdon

Montgomery Academy's Nigel Walker is tackled by St. James linebacker Alex Whisenhunt, Austin Gavin (3) in last year's meeting at McLemore Field.

Montgomery Academy and St. James will meet in the 2020 season opener at Huntingdon College.

The two football programs agreed to play their season opener in Week Zero (Aug. 21) at a neutral site as a way of elevating the visibility of the two programs at the start of the new football season.

“I think it’s a unique opportunity because both of our schools are within three miles of the Huntingdon campus,” Montgomery Academy coach Gary Nelson said. “It’s rare for that stadium to be open for high school games, most of our kids have never played on that campus so it’s a unique opportunity to play at a small college that has a cool residential feel to it. Hopefully, the kids will be excited to get to play on a college campus.”

The game was originally scheduled for Carlisle Field, but Nelson discovered he had just four home games this season and approached St. James coach Jimmy Perry with an alternative.

“He needed a home game and I said I couldn’t play unless we played at my place and he suggested should we do something if it was off-site and we split the gate,” Perry said. “If we do that two years in a row, that’s fine with me, if it helps him out.”

While it’s not a fifth home game, Nelson will receive 50 percent of the gate and putting the game on the Huntingdon campus should boost the visibility of the game, which in turn should help attendance.

“Logistically, Jimmy is doing me a favor because I owed him a return trip to his place and if I did that this year I would have six true road games,” Nelson said. “I really appreciate him making this happen.”

Perry agreed that having the season opener at Charles Lee Field would be a great selling point for the players.

“I think it’s unique,” Perry said. “It might generate a little more interest, playing it at a neutral site. It will for the kids because we’ll play at Huntingdon and play on turf. It’s something that’s different and both teams will split the gate so it’s not like you’re going a year with no funds coming in. I think it’ll be good.”

While there are still some details left to work on, one interesting aspect will involve the officials’ association that works the game.

“We use different officials associations so year one we’ll use the association they use (Central Alabama) and next year we’ll use our association (Mid-State),” Nelson said. “Aside from that, it’s a 50-50 deal. It’s a combined effort virtually every way.”

Nelson also felt the added interest in the game should be used by the schools as a way of giving back to the community.

“We’re going to use the game to benefit the YMCA football program in some way,” he said.