WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Saturday’s football game that’s going to crown a collegiate champion of Durham for the first time may be doing a lot to bring the city together, but it’s also doing plenty to divide small parts of it.
Offices, churches, school classrooms and even families are splitting their allegiances as Blue Devils or Eagles for the “Bull City Gridiron Classic” between Duke (1-2) and N.C. Central (0-3) at Wallace Wade Stadium.
And in some cases, people who are old friends or in even closer relationships just won’t be able to sit together in the throng. It’s not like the schools’ inaugural baseball game a couple of years ago, where sweatshirts, polo shirts and jackets in Eagle Maroon or Duke Blue were scattered like so much salt and pepper through the lower seating bowl.
At least for a few hours, this is going to be war.
One house where things may get crazy is that of the Drew family from Georgia, as Roderick and Chandra have a son on either team.
Chris Drew (upper left) is a sophomore linebacker for the Eagles, while brother John (at right) is a true freshman defensive tackle for the Blue Devils.
Each is on the second line of his team’s depth chart. And while the siblings are close enough for John to have chosen to become a Blue Devil partially because his other brother would be five miles away, that doesn’t mean they’ll be sneaking out of team curfews to meet for a pizza tonight.
When Chris showed up at his brother’s first practice, John asked him point-blank to take his butt back to East Durham.
“He’s an opponent for half the time and half the other time he’s my brother,” John said of Chris, who had accompanied their dad to the workout. “I was busy doing drills. I just saw him over there and thought ‘What is my brother doing here?” I was trying to get him away. He is my older brother, but on the other hand he might have been trying to get an edge.”
John said that if Chris were a football player for a non-ACC team that wasn’t on Duke’s schedule, his presence at the workout would have been just fine.
“He said, ‘Don’t ever come back!’” Chris said, quoting his brother. “I didn’t leave. I just stood there with my arms folded with my dad. I was watching them. I was focusing on what he was doing. I was out there to support him.
“I knew he was going to play right away. He’s not an average defensive lineman. This game is mainly for bragging rights, and it’s going to go from here until the day we both die.”
Duke’s sophomore safety Matt Daniels said there have been plenty of words among the players this month, and not all have been complimentary.
“A lot of the N.C. Central guys came over to East Campus (recently) talking trash,” Daniels said. “Drew is one of the biggest trash talkers we have on the team. He’s really hyped about this game because he’s playing his brother. He’s trying to get like 300 tickets for his family.”
John Drew said his family has already worked out some semblance of a seating chart for the contest.
“I believe my mother is going to sit on the Central side and my father is going to sit on the Duke side,” he said. “And I have a lot of relatives coming, and I think we’re just going to split it half and half. I don’t know the exact number (of tickets), but it’s a pretty big number.”
Besides the brother act, there are seven players on the rosters who went to high school in Durham.
Duke has senior nose guard Kinney Rucker from Jordan High, who is expected to start, along with freshman running back Desmond Scott – who played at Southern and then Hillside – who Duke coach David Cutcliffe said will get his first collegiate playing time. Duke’s freshman wideout Corey Gattis (Hillside) may be a redshirt freshman next season.
NCCU has Durham natives starting in quarterback Michael Johnson and wideout Geo Irvine (Hillside) and fullback Saeed Abdul-Azeez (Southern), while defensive back James Reese (Southern) always plays and sometimes starts.
If there was ever a time to empty the quote notebook without the limitations of a print publication, I think this is it. Read on…
“I’m a Tar Heel fan, and also of course an NCCU fan. I’ve never really liked Duke, but they have some good guys over there. Me and (Duke senior quarterback) Thad Lewis are great friends. We text each other. We hang out. I used to work at Ben & Jerry’s in the summer and I’d give him and his little girlfriend a little hook-up with some ice cream.
“I was recruited by Duke and knew some of the guys that were there. In 7-on-7 (passing games two summers ago), you sort of wonder if you can play with those guys and then you see it’s not as bad as you thought. But it’s going to be different when those big boys get in there.”
“You just have an ACC team and a D-1 AA team. They’re talking about how we’re not that good and they’re going to stomp all over us. There has been some dialogue between us.
Their athleticism is good. I’ve been really impressed with their receivers. (Irvine) leaps tall buildings with a single bound.”
“I really don’t want to think about (a loss). It would affect a lot of our season. If we lose to Central they’re like five minutes away from us. If we lose this game and win the rest of them, it’s still going to be there.”
“Everywhere all the time, everybody’s saying ‘Are you ready for Duke?’ A lot of people from Durham didn’t care about the first three games. They just want us to play Duke. This seems to be bigger than A&T this year. It’s the first time we’re playing them, so a lot of people from Durham will be out there to show support.
“You try to focus on the game and not get into the hype too much. But it is what it is. It’s a big game. You can’t help but take it for what it is.”
DUKE JUNIOR TIGHT END BRETT HUFFMAN:
“We got out there in shorts and T-shirts (in 7-on-7s). It’s a lot easier knowing there’s going to be a pass on every play. There’s just so much to the rest of the game, we’re going to find out.
“We know who they are. We’ve met them through a couple of functions like Christmas gift-wrapping.
It’s looking to be a great rivalry game.”
“It’s history, and it’s a great accomplishment for this program. It will be an even greater accomplishment once we win. We haven’t played to the best of our ability, the offense as a whole.
“I know Desmond Scott. I played with him before he transferred to Hillside. For these two teams to play, it’s a part of history. Central has never played Duke. It’s big for the community and it’s big for my teammates.”
ONE LAST NOTE … Because of advice from the Department of Homeland Security, backpacks and large bags are no longer permitted inside the stadium beginning with Saturday’s game. Also, vehicles may not be parked in the stadium concourse.