To Kelsey Collins and Booker Mays III, it’s personal. To Kyle Coleman, it’s a blessing.
Even if it pits him and the Arkansas State Red Wolves against his father’s Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions, who by the way include some of his high school teammates, he considers it a blessing.
“I get to play with five or six players I played with or against in high school,” Coleman said after Wednesday’s practice, the number actually being eight. “It’s a cool opportunity.”
Yet, Saturday’s game at Liberty Bank Stadium in Jonesboro won’t center around a clash of Pine Bluff natives as much as it will a match of father vs. son. What emotions between Kyle and his father Monte will come out of the game is anyone’s guess, but so far, both Colemans have shown hardly any when talking about this rare occasion.
Monte, the sixth-year UAPB head coach, usually smiles when he talks about Kyle the Red Wolf. Kyle sounded very calm when asked how much he’s thought about going against his father’s team, treating it as another ballgame.
“Not too much, honestly,” Kyle answered. “I just think about winning. Not just that, dominating. They’re a good football team, and on defense we have to stay focused on our assignments and let everything fall into place.”
Kyle Coleman, a starting junior linebacker, is one of four Red Wolves who call Pine Bluff home and eight who hail from Southeast Arkansas. Two of them, 2011 Dollarway graduates Charleston Girley and Mays, have just been put on scholarship by first-year A-State coach Bryan Harsin after walking on as freshmen.
And to start the season, those Red Wolves will take on their hometown team, who number 10 from Pine Bluff on the roster — eight of whom Kyle either has played with or against while prepping at Watson Chapel High School.
“It’s an interesting game knowing I grew up with some of those guys,” Mays said. “I got love for some of those guys. But, yeah, it’s personal.”
The count is enough for Collins, a junior defensive back and Pine Bluff High alumnus, to make this game matter a little — or a lot — more.
“It’s personal, being that’s my hometown,” he said. “It can’t be easy. I’m going to give my all, give 100 percent. I’m not letting up.”
It’s the first meeting between the two programs, both of which have been in existence for at least 85 years. (Arkansas State’s program dates back 102 years.) But it’s a step in the right direction for two schools that seek to be good neighbors by engaging in a little in-state competition.
For the Golden Lions, it’s a battle for more statewide respect, trying to establish themselves as a higher-echelon Football Championship Subdivision team capable of hanging with — and possibly beating — a Football Bowl Subdivision team that’s won 10 games and the Sun Belt Conference title each of the past two years.
“We respect everybody,” said Mays, a wide receiver expected to see some action on special teams. “We can’t come out saying, ‘We’re the Red Wolves.’ We’ve got to play. We’re coming off a championship, and they’re coming off a championship. Our egos are going to be up, and their egos are going to be up. We’re coming after them.”
The Red Wolves aren’t taking the Lions’ FCS status for granted. UAPB boasts plenty of experience on both sides of the ball and is known for a well-balanced, fast-paced offense that has the attention of A-State defenders.
“The main thing we want to do is contain the quarterback,” said Girley, a second-stringer at the Wolf position (hybrid linebacker-safety), of preseason SWAC offensive player of the year Ben Anderson. “We want to force him to make throws he doesn’t want to make.”
Kyle Coleman is all too aware that the Lions will spread the ball all over the field.
“We’re just going to be relentless,” he said. “We’ll come from every angle. Instead of us figuring out how we’re going to stop their offense, they’re going to have to find out how they’re going to break down our defense.”
Kyle Coleman said he hasn’t talked with any of the Pine Bluff natives on UAPB’s team about the game, but his father remained confident that it will come down to the fourth quarter.
Father and son have a bet on the game: The loser has to drive the winner’s vehicle, which has a license plate commemorating the winner’s team, for a month.
Who’ll come out victorious?
“To be honest, I really don’t know,” Kyle said. “Twenty-thirteen’s a new year, and anything can happen.
“They don’t know who’s going to do what on our team, and we don’t know who’s going to do what on their team. It adds a little mystery to the game.”
Arkansas State players from SE Arkansas
(Player, class and position, high school)
• Kyle Coleman, junior linebacker, Watson Chapel
• Kelsey Collins, redshirt junior defensive back, Pine Bluff
• Charleston Girley, redshirt sophomore cornerback, Dollarway
• Darion Griswold, redshirt sophomore tight end, Dumas
• Quanterio Heath, redshirt freshman linebacker, Rison
• Booker Mays III, redshirt freshman wide receiver, Dollarway
• Marquis Walker, redshirt freshman defensive back, Rison
• C.J. Watson, redshirt freshman defensive lineman, Warren