A house divided: Causeway Classic splits relationships

Joe Davis

All is fair in love and Causeway Classic.

Although overused, this sentiment certainly holds true for some Sacramento State athletes.

For Hornets like defensive lineman Matt Lawrence, linebacker Jeff Badger and Sac State women’s volleyball setter Katie Aprile, the enemy takes the form of a loved one.

Badger grew up in a household that supported UC Davis. Aggie colors were dominant until Badger decided to attend Sac State, and then it was out with the blue and in with the new.

“My dad told me as long as I am at Sac State he will support the green and gold,” Badger said. “As soon as I graduate he is getting rid of the green and putting his blue back on.”

Badger’s dad Lance not only went to Davis, he played in the Causeway Classic as a member of the Aggie football team in 85’ and 86’.

“The toughest thing is all the ribbing I get from fellow Aggies I am still in contact with.” Lance Badger said. “I tell them blood is thicker than the blue and gold, but Jeff knows as soon as his Sac State career is over I am going back to blue and gold with Aggie pride in the Causeway.”

Lawrence was lured by love behind battle lines after he met his girlfriend, a Davis student, last December.

“The first couple of trips I took over to Davis to visit (my girlfriend) I was a little hesitant and I would always be looking over my shoulder.” Lawrence said. “I am just always aware of the rivalry so it made me feel like I was in enemy territory.”

Aprile is the only member of her family to attend Sac State. Her father and step-father are Davis alumni. Her brother Nick Aprile is currently a member of the Aggie football team.

“I told my brother this year Davis has no chance against Sac State,” Katie Aprile said. “He always reminds me of how Davis has beat (Sac State) the last two season and I really have nothing to say back after he plays that card on me.”

No in-house rivalry would be complete without a little wager on the line for the big game.

“I talked about a bet with my girlfriend,” Lawrence said. “If they win I will wear a Davis shirt to school for the day, and when we win she will have to wear not only a Sac State shirt, but a Sac State volleyball shirt because she hates Sac State volleyball.”

Lawrence is a senior who redshirted his freshman year. In his career at Sac State, Lawrence has a 2-2 record against Davis. A win would not only give him a winning record against the rival school, but it would give bragging rights in Hornets v. Aggies discussions with his significant other for the rest of their lives.

Sac State head coach Marshall Sperbeck is not without his flaws. He too has a special connection with the Davis program. Sperbeck’s brother in-law is College Football Hall of Fame inductee, Davis alumnus and former quarterback Ken O’Brien.

“I don’t even know if (my players) even know (O’Brien is my brother in-law),” Sperbeck said. “I don’t even think they know who he is.”

Regardless of connections to current or former Aggies, a win against Davis this season has added stakes. In the past, rarely has this game meant so much for one side or the other.

Sac State, although with a slim shot, is fighting for its life in the playoffs. A victory would assure the Hornets at least consideration for the FCS playoffs. A loss would eliminate the team’s hopes of postseason glory and end senior players’ careers on a sour note.

In addition to the playoffs berth hanging in the balance for Sac State, this matchup is Davis head coach Bob Biggs’s final game at the helm for the Aggies. He is the final connection to the Davis glory days of playoff pedigree.

Jeff Badger looks forward to the opportunity to put the long tenured head coach out to pasture with a loss.

“Biggs was coaching when my dad was there,” Badger said. “Plus, it is my senior year so I will definitely have to hold on to this one.”

On Saturday pride and playoffs will be on the line. When the clock shows triple-zeroes, one team will be ending its journey while the other is hailed the victor. Years of heckling rights will be decided by the results of one game in a house divided.

Joe Davis can be reached at [email protected].