It’s something every high school football player dreams of, but few get to experience.
Fork Union Military Academy will lace up the cleats and play on the ESPN family of networks on August 25 in a game tentatively set for 4 p.m. against mighty Hermitage High, a 2011 Group AAA, Division 6 semifinalist.
“Everybody seeing the matchup…nobody is going to think we have a chance but us,” said Fork Union coach Micky Sullivan. “It’s going to make it a tough road. But the opportunity for the young men involved, you can’t pass up.”
The game is slated to be played at Group AAA, Division 6 champion Oscar Smith’s home field in Chesapeake as part of a doubleheader. Oscar Smith is scheduled to play Byrnes High, a power out of South Carolina that produced super recruit Marcus Lattimore and current Rutgers quarterback Chas Dodd among myriad other big time recruits the last few years.
The Blue Devils, who usually don’t start practice until August 12th, will have to come in about five days early to be prepared for the televised clash.
While Hermitage is a tall test, Fork Union hasn’t shied away from tough competition when it comes to the Blue Devils’ football schedule, finishing 4-6 last year with a group that largely returns this season. Beyond the usual private school tilts against Woodberry Forest, St.Christopher’s, Collegiate and Benedictine, the Blue Devils took on Group A finalist Goochland (a loss), powerful Georgetown Prep (a loss) and Jefferson District champion Powhatan (a win). A 35-21 loss to Woodberry ended FUMA’s 2011 season.
But having many in that group back including Penn State commitment Christian Hackenberg, who’s national profile surely played a role in ESPN’s interest in the Blue Devils, should help Fork Union against Hermitage.
“That’s a plus, we have a good nucleus coming back, but we’ve got a lot of work to do,” Sullivan said. “Hopefully they’ll be a sense of urgency with the kids. It’ll be about how hard they work.”
The fact that they’re getting a chance to play on ESPN though isn’t lost on the Blue Devils’ long-time head coach.
“This is all kind of new to me,” Sullivan said. “You’re kind of like ‘wow.’ It’s a great honor to be selected as the first private school in the state of the Virginia (to play on ESPN), to represent the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association and to represent Fork Union.”