West, Steele look forward to matchup

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 28, 2007

The Selma Times-Journal

Roderick West and Donald Steele are putting their friendship to the side for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon.

When West’s Alabama State Hornets and Steele’s Southern Jaguars take the field in the 34th Gulf Coast Classic, more than bragging rights will be on the line.

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Both teams were picked to finish near the bottom of the SWAC, but each is trying to keep a 4-0 record intact.

“It’s kind of early in the season to judge how good a team is so far, but we’re trying to stay humble,” Steele said. “We’re still practicing like we were in camp, flying around and making tackles. Being 4-0 is good, but we want to win a SWAC championship just like they’re trying to win a SWAC championship.”

Friends since they were small children and former teammates at Selma High, the two haven’t grown apart too much despite playing on rival teams.

There probably will be some trash talking going on between now and the game. But since West plays defensive back and Steele plays linebacker, they won’t get a chance to go head-to-head on the field.

What’s really important is what the game means to family and fans back home.

“This is big because Selma has some college athletes playing against each other,” West said. “This is the third year our teams have played. A lot of people have got memories of us from high school.”

Both teams have earned their perfect records the hard way, especially the Hornets, who have won the last two games by a combined five points.

“It’s basically the coaches and the attitudes of the coaches and the players,” West said. “Guys stayed all summer working hard, and we don’t give up until the whistle blows.”

It’s going to be a long ride back from Mobile’s Ladd-Peebles Stadium for whoever loses. But each player knows he can count on at least one phone call no matter what the outcome.

“I’ve seen a couple of his games on ESPN, and I call him and tell him what he did wrong,” Steele said. “He does the same for me. I’m sure the people of Selma aren’t just going to pick Alabama State or just pick Southern. They’re going to root for both of us and hope for the best for both of us.”