By Pat Cummings
|The Bridgewater fans have put on quite a tailgating
spread at past Stagg Bowls.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, D3football.com
So you are coming to Stagg Bowl XXXIV?
Since D3football.com first covered the Stagg Bowl with a live webcast in 1999, Salem Stadium has become a unique meeting place, connecting months of virtual encounters. On multiple occasions, the webcast has ventured to the Salem Stadium parking lot to pose questions and discuss the game with fans on the air.
In 2001, Bridgewater College's appearance in the national championship led to the third-largest attendance in Stagg Bowl history and the largest crowd to watch the Stagg Bowl in Salem. A mere 100 miles on Interstate 81 connected Bridgewater fans to Salem, and ever since, the Eagles' faithful have hosted a constantly growing tailgate party open to all.
Welcome to Stone Station.
John Coleman, a 1991 Bridgewater graduate, had been setting up shop with his Bridgewater tailgates across from the home of Bridgewater president Phillip Stone. Coleman, who is better known on the message board as "Skoaltrain," took the train idea a step further and dubbed the tailgate location as Stone Station. The name stuck, and fellow Bridgewater message board posters have gathered at Stone Station for years.
"We just ran into people who were on D3football.com and the tailgate that started as a few tables has really grown," Coleman said. (He is not related to D3football.com publisher Pat Coleman.)
Bo Morris (aka "Llamaguy"), a 1989 BC alum, has facilitated expanding the tailgate even further and added a 4' x 6' stainless steel grill mounted on a 10' trailer.
"As Bridgewater improved on the football field," Coleman said, "so did our tailgate."
Stone Station feeds approximately 75-100 Bridgewater fans at all BC home games and frequently hits the road with notable trips in 2006 to McDaniel, Guilford, Ferrum, Christopher Newport, and Wesley.
But CNU and Wesley didn't play Bridgewater this season. These guys are so passionate about their D3 football, and their tailgating, that this show hits the road through the postseason.
Bo Morris trekked to the CNU/Washington and Jefferson first-round playoff game and joined forces with several CNU tailgaters. Morris presided over a spread at the South Region final in Dover, Delaware where Wesley defeated Mary Hardin-Baylor.
Expecting that Morris and the crew ran into just Wolverines and Crusaders fans? Hardly. Aside from the D3football.com broadcasters joining him, Morris sated the likes of some Rowan and Wabash fans, and even a retired Mount Union coach who now resides on the Virginia coast.
D3football.com helped bring them all together.
"People show up to our tailgates and ask: 'Where's Llama?'" Morris said. "We actually find many people lurk (read the message boards but do not post) and come by and say that they enjoy reading the conversation and wanted to meet us."
As Stone Station's spread at Salem has grown, so too have the number of posters who swing by. This year, Morris says that they will be sure not to forget who stops by.
"We will have a sign-in poster this year so that random people or message board posters can stop by and log in to tell us they were at the tailgate."
Here are the marching orders for Stagg Bowl XXXIV:
"Come one, come all," Morris says. "One way or another, we're for purple and black this year. It's hard for us to go wrong."
Morris, Coleman, and the Stone Station regulars wish to invite all fans coming to Salem to stop by Stone Station, introduce themselves, and eat up.
The first load of chicken is due off of Morris' grill at noon and a second batch should be ready to go after 2 p.m. Normally, 75 chicken quarters are prepared at one time, and a "first come, first served" policy is in effect. The same goes for Bridgewater professor Barbara Black. She tirelessly bakes hundreds of her famous brownies for mass consumption, having prepared 30 pans for last year's Stagg Bowl, including several pans for the participants. A variety of other traditional tailgate fare will be available as well.
"The Old Dominion Athletic Conference and Salem host the game, we, the fans from the ODAC host the tailgate," Morris said. Fans and posters of Bridgewater, Hampden-Sydney, Randolph-Macon, and Guilford have acknowledged their plans to attend this year's Stone Station at the Stagg Bowl, along with fans of other schools outside the ODAC. Alumni, parents, current and former players from all over have mentioned that they plan to stop by the tailgate. The administrators, photographers, writers, and broadcasters from D3football.com will make appearances as well.
Morris has some even larger plans. With the playing of the Division I football championship, he's trying to organize the masses to join fellow D-III fans to watch Massachusetts and Appalachian State play on Friday evening. Morris and others will be at Corned Beef & Co. in downtown Roanoke at 7 p.m. Friday to enjoy another championship shared with the D-III community.
If you plan to come to the Stagg Bowl, seek out the "Stone Station" sign and the Bridgewater College flags. Red and gold clad fans will be manning the grills, but they are planning to welcome fans from all over D-III with their open arms, your appetite, and some hearty discussions about football and all things D-III.