This offseason, I’m sharing the nation’s best game days through the eyes of the most accomplished college football travelers. Below is the Group Of Five Guys’ story, penned by Matt Sprouse:
Booneshine! Group of Five Guys take on App State and Charlotte
The Group of Five Guys are on a mission to bring pride and excitement to Group of Five fan bases. Five best friends that love football, and more importantly, love the festivities. We travel to big Group of Five games, looking to highlight campuses, tailgates, communities, game day atmospheres. We’re not media– we are fans, and we want more fans. We want to eat, drink, and cheer right alongside the home team.
Our first big trip was heading to Boone, NC for the App State vs. Marshall game. It was a Thursday night kickoff. We rolled into town Wednesday evening and started scoping out the town. River Street Ale House was the top recommendation. The place was fantastic. Great food, cold beer, great people.
We ran into so many different App State and Marshall fans that night. The App fans were quick to downplay the crowd we would witness for a Thursday night game. There are too many specific people to thank for our amazing time. Thursday morning, we met up with Coach Justin Watts to give us a facilities tour.
Boone, NC is like a ski resort town with a badass football team that happens to play right in the middle of it. The App State football facilities are built right into the mountain as well. Facilities are state of the art, and they were still in the middle of a renovation. As we walked through the football building, Head Coach Shawn Clark came down the hall sporting our GOFG Sweatshirt. It was one of the coolest moments of the trip, as we realized we were already making an impact.
After the facilities tour, we went to grab lunch at Lost Province Pizza. ELITE pizza spot! We grabbed some pizza and beer and then hit the tailgate.
All the questions by the fans about the crowd size were quickly answered. The tailgate was slammed. We tried our very best to hit each and every tailgate we met the night before, or we knew from social media. We started with the students and Greeks and made our way one by one to the stadium. Believe me when I tell you– each and every person that knew we were from out of town, was quick to offer a beer or a shot or food, or all the above
Huge shout out to House United, Barstool Neers, Black Death, Library Deck, Big C, A Holes, and all the other tailgates that are awesome in in what they do. From there, we stood in the beer garden with some former players and hardcore fans.
As we walked through the football building, Head Coach Shawn Clark came down the hall sporting our GOFG Sweatshirt. It was one of the coolest moments of the trip, as we realized we were already making an impact.
The game was about as exciting as they come. Back and forth with Marshall leading until late. Of course, we all bet App to cover 7.5. App was up 1 driving with about a minute left. A TD and extra point would have covered for us. Nate Noel hits a wide-open hole and is running right at us to make us all some money, when he slides down at the 5 to run out the clock. A brutal bad beat. A win is a win though, and we celebrated in the locker room with the team. A truly incredible experience. The pure joy on everyone from coaches, players, admin, interns, and everyone in between, after a big win is the coolest thing ever.
Group of Five Guys Tackle Charlotte
After partying a second night in Boone, we got up early and hit the road to Charlotte for Charlotte vs Middle Tennessee. Of course, the Group of Five Guys are MT grads… we’ll come back to that later.
Truthfully, we had lesser expectations for a Friday night game between Charlotte and Middle. Our boy Sloan Allison got us in contact with Coach Healy, who got us in contact with some folks to give us a facilities tour pregame. Unfortunately, student tailgating was closed due to Covid so we couldn’t get the full experience. We made our way over to the Normbulance tailgate which is a big time group of boosters and fans. They do a pickaxe shot (think of a shot ski but a pick axe instead of a ski), which we all took part in to get back in the game.
For the facilities tour, we were pleasantly surprised with what they have going on in Charlotte. Rebranding everything so the weight room was about to get a renovation too. We stood on the field for the game, on the MT sideline, right in front of a ruthless Charlotte student section.
As we walked onto the field an hour or so before kickoff, we doubted there would be a good crowd. The closer we got to kickoff, the students just kept filing in. Awesome to see! As the students thought we were MT coaches, they were letting us have it. Making fun of Jesse’s bald head, Zeke’s cowboy hat, Tip’s blue jeans, they were destroying us. At halftime, Jesse and I walked over to them to let them know what we were about, we took pictures and got them fired up.
We went from public enemy number one, to being invited to the Frat House after the game. They even offered to have pledges drive us around wherever we wanted. This time we declined. We got to chat with Coach Heals for a while after the game.
The most memorable thing about Charlotte was the handshakes. Heals has his players so bought in, and becoming men, more than just athletes. Players went out of their way to say, “Hey my name is _____. Thanks for coming out.” Made us, as neutral fans, really want to support these guys.
Overall, App State is unreal. It’s the prototype for Group of Five football. Facilities, fans, environment, they do it right. Charlotte is building. And for a program in city with all the challenges a major market team has to deal with, they do right. The facilities are top notch, and we can’t say enough about the students. Two programs in two completely different markets. Both do it so different, but both do it right!