Stonewall Jackson to play football game at JMU this season

Helmets for Stonewall Jackson and East Rockingham are displayed at a press conference at JMU on Thursday. Stonewall Jackson and East Rockingham will play at JMU on Oct. 15. The game will be part of the Shenandoah Valley Football Classic. Tommy Keeler Jr./Daily

HARRISONBURG – Stonewall Jackson’s football team will get a special treat one Saturday this October when they play at James Madison University.

The Generals will be part of the first-ever Shenandoah Valley Football Classic. The announcement was made on Thursday at a press conference at JMU. Four games will be held at JMU’s Bridgeforth Stadium on Oct. 14 and 15. The first game will be on Oct. 14 between Turner Ashby and Waynesboro at 7 p.m. On Oct. 15, there will be three games played. The first game will feature Harrisonburg and Broadway at noon. Stonewall Jackson will play East Rockingham at 3 p.m., followed by Fort Defiance and Spotswood at 6 p.m.

It will be a home game for Stonewall Jackson.

“It’s just an outstanding opportunity for our kids to get an experience that, quite frankly, most will never get,” Stonewall Jackson Athletic Director Todd Fannin said. “The changes we will have to make in giving up a home game are far outweighed by the benefit and the experience that these kids are going to have and that’s why we do it. That’s what we’re here for.”

The four home teams (Turner Ashby, Broadway, Stonewall Jackson and Spotswood) will split the bill for renting the stadium, but will also divide the net receipts brought in from the event. Fannin said if they lose any money on it, he didn’t think it would be much.

Chris Williams

Each school was represented by their athletic director, football coach and two players at the Thursday press conference. Stonewall Jackson coach Jay Goode said he was looking forward to the event.

“It’s just great for our kids, great for our community,” Goode said. “This is a big deal to come play here on a Saturday afternoon. So we’re all real excited about it.”

Stonewall Jackson rising senior Chance Stroop said he attended JMU’s playoff game against Colgate last season, and he’s excited to be able to play on the same field.

“To be out there on that field this year, I think it’s going to be awesome,” Stroop said. “It’s going to be great. I’m really excited to come out here and play.”

Spotswood athletic director Tim Leach said that the idea first came about after Spotswood and Turner Ashby were allowed to play at JMU last year, when their high school field wasn’t playable due to rain. The two teams played on a Monday night. Former JMU head coach Everett Withers, who is now the head coach at Texas State University, had a son on Spotswood’s team.

Chance Stroop

Leach said he began talking with other athletic directors about the possibility of playing at JMU in the future.

“We thought how cool would it be if we could do an event like this at JMU. We’ve played basketball tournaments, baseball and softball tournaments here,” Leach said. “We’re excited about giving the kids the experience of playing in front of all the communities involved. Experience what it’s like to play in a big college venue and just create some special memories for our kids, while at the same time giving our fans, our families and our communities an unique experience as well as fitting in with JMU’s goal of community outreach and engagement.”

Leach said that they hope to do this every year, and they also would like to do it for other sports.

JMU will play at New Hampshire on Oct. 15.

JMU Assistant A.D. for Communications Kevin Warner said that it’s a win-win for both the schools and JMU.

Jay Goode

“One of the big pieces in our strategic plan is community engagement. So to get the communities of these high schools out to our campus on a Friday night or on a Saturday, that means a lot to the kids to have that experience,” Warner said. “I think for us it gets kids on our campus. They see it. It’s one thing to drive around town, but it’s another thing to be here on a gameday, to walk into the stadium. All the students are going to be here on campus – 20,000 students – to be here and just take it all in.”

Stonewall Jackson rising junior Chris Williams said that he was at JMU this summer, and he’s looking forward to coming back to play.

“I like being here. It’s a great place,” Williams said. “I think it’s going to be great.”

General admission tickets for the games are $7 for Friday’s game, and $10 for Saturday’s games. One ticket is good for all three games on Saturday. Club seats cost $10 for Friday’s game and $15 for Saturday’s games. Anyone 6 years or older needs a ticket. Online ticket sales begin Sept. 1. All day-of sales will be cash only.

Contact staff writer Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 168, or tkeeler@nvdaily.com