ETSU-Appy deserves big crowd

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- If you don't have plans Saturday night, I've got an idea. If you do have plans, change them.
   There's somewhere you need to be at 6 p.m.
   Memorial Center should be full on Saturday, as first place is on the line in the toughest conference in all of Division I-AA football.
   It's two bitter Southern Conference rivals going at it with the homestanding East Tennessee State Buccaneers taking on the Appalachian State Mountaineers.
   ETSU hasn't played in a game this big in a long time, and it's one that everybody should see.
   Appalachian State is ranked No. 4 in the country, and has one of the best quarterbacks in Division I football in Joe Burchette. He's one that is worth the price of admission.
   It could also be a night a record gets set, as Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore has a chance to break Duke University legend Wallace Wade's all-time record for SoCon wins.
   But the main reason you should be there is that these kids do not deserve to see the dome less than half-filled.
   These are quality players, both from Appalachian State and East Tennessee State. They're not chop liver.
   Some of these guys, like ETSU defensive lineman Brandon Calton were recruited by I-A schools. Some players, like Buccaneer quarterback Jatavis Sanders, actually played at a top 25 program in N.C. State.
   I've been covering ETSU now for four seasons. In that time, I have noticed a negative attitude in the area about ETSU and Division I-AA football.
   This seems to be very prevalent in Carter County, and that's why I think you should come out Saturday night.
   If you haven't seen a Southern Conference football game, Saturday night would be a great time to see one.
   You'll get to see pro prospects like ETSU wide receiver Cecil Moore and Appalachian State defensive end Josh Jeffries. You'll also get to see an ETSU defense that is considered one of the best in all of Division I-AA football.
   I know this still doesn't entice some of you, but there is nothing wrong with coming out to an ETSU football game and especially one of this magnitude.
   One reason I hear from people about why they don't support ETSU is because the program doesn't recruit local players. I think this is bogus.
   A guy recently posted on a ETSU message board that the Bucs can't seem to find the local talent. Posters let this person know that the Buccaneer roster features many players from East Tennessee and Southwest Virginia.
   The ETSU roster even has two players on it from our coverage area in Elizabethton's Adam Howell and Johnson County's Adam Cranford.
   It would be nice if you could go support these two young men. Access to players after the game is pretty easy at ETSU contests, so go tell these guys that you appreciate their hard work.
   The Bucs biggest problem over the years has been competing with the University of Tennessee. I understand that, but this area is big enough to support both the Bucs and the Vols.
   If you're going to Knoxville on Saturday, please go. Jason Witten deserves your support, too.
   But if you can't make it there, you need to be in Memorial Center.
   The dome was almost empty two weeks ago when ETSU played VMI. That doesn't need to happen again.
   It was an embarrassment for the program, and a night to forget.
   Division I-AA football is good stuff. Many NFL players come from the Division I-AA ranks.
   Do me a favor. Go to just this one game on Saturday night.
   It's like eating broccoli. You'll never like it unless you try it.