SoCal games are a homecoming for most Cougar players

Away games to USC are fun for student-athletes but also pose a problem



Then-redshirt senior running back Gerard Wicks drives through the USC defense Sept. 29 at Martin Stadium.

JACKSON GARDNER, Evergreen reporter

Trips to Southern California — like the one this weekend — are somewhat of a homecoming for WSU football players.

There is senior receiver Kyle Sweet and redshirt senior defen­sive tackle Nick Begg, who hail from Rancho Santa Margarita, California, and will play just a little more than 50 miles away from their hometown at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. They are a part of the tail end of the recruiting pipeline from Santa Margarita Catholic High School to WSU that started in 2013 with former Cougs River Cracraft and Riley Sorenson.

Or there is redshirt sopho­more receiver Renard Bell, sophomore receiver Jamire Calvin and freshman nickel back Halid Djibril who are even clos­er and call Los Angeles home. They are starting a pipeline of their own from Cathedral High School to WSU and played their high school ball just a quick trip down Interstate 110 from where they will be playing Friday night against University of Southern California.

Even more local than that trio are the two Cougar defensive linemen, junior Derek Moore and freshman Ahmir Crowder who attended Crenshaw High School. They played their prep games just blocks away from the Coliseum.

The point is: Los Angeles — and the state of California as a whole — is an important place for WSU football.

There are 45 Cougars who are from the state of California. That is just shy of 40 percent of the entire roster. And while this homecoming game for the California natives is a happy time, it presents a problem: get­ting tickets for their family and friends.

“I don’t even know, it’s like 10-plus, and that’s just fam­ily alone,” Begg said about how many friends and family he has coming to Friday’s game. “It’s just tough because you come to find out that this guy commit­ted his tickets to another guy in August and just about everyone on the team, their parents want an excuse to go down to Southern California for a little vacation, so everyone from everywhere is using their tickets. It’s a tough week.”

Players are given four tickets each week for family as well as friends and they can give their tickets to teammates if they choose to do so. If you’re a guy like freshman running back Max Borghi, whose hometown of Arvada, Colorado is just a two-hour drive from the Cougars’ season-opener in Laramie, Wyoming, those tickets aren’t hard to come by. He had about 40 family members and friends in attendance.

However, when the game is in Los Angeles and everyone and their mother is looking for tick­ets, it makes the search pretty difficult to get all your loved ones a ticket.

“I mean, Mom is in my ear, but it’s not really too much pres­sure,” redshirt sophomore safe­ty Skyler Thomas, who is from Riverside, California, said. “I’ve been trying to get tickets for this game since I don’t know, like last year. I’m probably gonna have like 15-20 [friends and family] there … I been trying to ask every­one for tickets — people who are from California, who aren’t from California — everyone is using their tickets this week. So my mom just ended up having to buy a few.”

Whether they started their inquiries for tickets last year or last week, everyone is struggling to get the amount of tickets that they want. Some players, like Calvin, just leave it to Mom and Dad to make the decision of who stays and who goes.

“It gets kind of difficult, I mean sometimes your family has to either stick it out and buy a ticket or just watch it on TV like everyone else,” Calvin said. “I just make sure my mom and my dad have one and they figure it out from there.”

No matter who gets the tick­ets, one thing is for sure: the section allotted to players’ family and friends at the coliseum will be packed to the brim this Friday.