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Arlington Football Showdown Pits Two SWAC Powerhouses

TSU features Mesquite’s Garcia in Saturday match-up with Southern University

By Valerie Fields Hill
News Editor
Texas Metro News

Copy of 59 Richard Garcia III

Richard Garcia, courtesy of TSU

Texas Southern University kicker Richard Garcia, III displayed a different look during the Tigers’ pre-game meal last week, just hours before TSU hit the field against North Texas.

Garcia’s face was stern: He meant business. He had little time for small talk.

“We were at the same table,” said TSU Sports Information Director Ryan McGinty regarding the junior who played at Horn High School in Mesquite.

“I had never seen him like that. He was focused. He was intense,” McGinty said during an interview with Texas Metro News. “He was fired up.”

That evening, Garcia scored two field goals and averaged 40 yards while on double duty as the Tigers’ punter.

“He had a great game,” McGinty said. “He lived up to the expectations.”

The Tigers will rely on Garcia to bring that same intensity this weekend as TSU meets the Jaguars of Southern University Baton Rouge.

The matchup is the marquee event of the Arlington Football Showdown, one of the newest HBCU “classics” on a national landscape where cities across the nation, particularly with large minority populations, increasingly are clamoring to bring Black college football to their athletic stadiums.

The Showdown begins at 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Choctaw Stadium in Arlington. Ticket prices range from $17 to $30, although no $17 tickets were available on the official promoter’s website late Wednesday.

Texas Southern is coming to Arlington following a defeat last week by the University of North Texas. The Mean Green, who are not in the same athletic conference, defeated the Tigers 59-27.

Southern is also entering this week’s game after a huge loss. The Jaguars fell to LSU last week, 65-17.

Athletic officials at both schools said last week’s defeats by non-conference teams is no indicator of excitement over this week’s matchup.

“The Jaguars put on a great show,” Willie D. Scott, associate director of strategic communications at Southern University said Wednesday.

Fans “will see 60 minutes of competitive football.”

This week, sales of game tickets, by many accounts, were brisk.

“You know, someone just (purchased) 1,500 tickets today from us,” said McGinty, whose athletic office is next door to TSU’s group sales ticket office. “So that’s good.”

In Baton Rouge, Southern’s associate director of strategic communications Willie D. Scott, said the Jaguars’ allotment of tickets for this year’s game is smaller than in 2021.

Last year, the inaugural year of the classic, more than 18,000 Southern University fans – clad in their signature Columbia blue and gold – packed into Choctaw Stadium, forming a visible sea wave that was noticeably more than those who came out to support Texas Southern.

Arlington Football Showdown“To be honest, we’ll probably bring three times more than Texas Southern,” Scott said Wednesday afternoon from his office in Baton Rouge. “We’re Jaguar Nation. We travel like that.”

Late Wednesday, tickets to Saturday’s game could no longer be purchased from Southern University’s athletic web site, nor through its online ticket vendor, TicketMaster.com

The game’s promoters could not be reached late Wednesday for comment on sales numbers.

Meanwhile, Southern University fans were traveling from as far away as the Houston area for the matchup, after-game parties, a comedy show, Greek “Step Show” and other Showdown-related activities.

“Southernites, we travel,” said Sharon Henry Stephens,” an alumna who graduated in 1983 from Southern University and now lives in Cypress, near Houston. “Wherever the Jaguar Nation is, we’ll be there.”

Stephens said she and a group of about 20 fellow alumni and friends had purchased a suite at Choctaw Stadium and would meet there Saturday to enjoy the game together.

Not even concerns over the lingering COVID-19 virus would dampen their plans, she said.

“You know Southernites; we’re different,” Stephens said of herself and her friends, laughing.

As an example, she said that two years ago, she and fellow Southern football fans were in attendance at A.W. Mumford Stadium on the Southern University campus in Baton Rouge when local newscasters promised a tornado was impending at the scheduled time of a Jaguars matchup.

“They moved up the game time. They knew there was a possibility that the hurricane was coming,” Stephens said of Southern University athletic officials.

“Then, they had the hurricane warning. We were out there in the rain,” she said, laughing. “It’s going to take more than a hurricane and COVID to stop us.”

Team officials at both schools promised the game would be a crowd pleaser.

Southern is a crowd favorite.

The Jags won the Southwestern Athletic Conference Western division championships in 2018 and 2019. However, in both years, the Jags failed to pull out conference championship wins against Alcorn State University.

It’s been more than a decade since Texas Southern has won a SWAC Western divisional title. The Tigers won the Western Division championship in 2010, but they vacated the title.

At last year’s Showdown, Texas Southern pulled out a surprise fourth quarter win against Southern, defeating the Jags  35-31 for the first time in recent memory.

McGinty said his team is ready for a repeat. “I think Tiger Nation will represent well,” he said.

And, Garcia, by the way, is expected to charm North Texas fans. After all, he’ll be playing in front of friends and family members.

“He’s from the Mesquite area. I know he’s going to be the same this week,” McGinty said.

That is, focused and fired up.

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