By Ken Ables
Nineteen is a special number in San Diego. Donnel Pumphrey wore it as he set the NCAA career rushing record. Tony Gwynn wore it for the Padres and as head coach for the Aztec baseball team. For those of us old enough to remember, Lance Alworth wore it and became the first AFL player enshrined in Canton.
There’s also Matt Araiza, wearing #19 for Buffalo, who just brought the Punt God legend to the NFL on Saturday with an 82-yard kick in his first NFL punt.
Add one more important fact about the number 19: Snapdragon Stadium opens 19 days from today!
Aztec players and staff toured Snapdragon Stadium months ago. But Sunday they did so once again in preparation for this Saturday’s soft open/stress test—a football scrimmage that will mark as the first ever live event held in San Diego’s first stadium to be built since 2004.
The scrimmage is to take place this Saturday, August 20th beginning at 5pm.
To say the coaches and players were impressed is an understatement. Here a just a few reactions:
RB Chance Bell:
LB Caden McDonald:
Offensive line Coach and former San Diego Charger, Mike Goff:
We all are, Coach! It has been a long three years since Aztec fans have seen a game in San Diego. We were all shut out in 2020 due to COVID-19, and only a few of us diehards and the Sons of Montezuma made the trip to Carson last season. But that’s all behind us now.
These will be a long 19 days until September 3 (season ticket holders get an early look on Saturday!). But it will be worth the wait. Tickets for single games are now available for the general public to purchase. Season tickets have reportedly reached the near 15k mark and for the home opener September 3rd vs Arizona will surely be a sellout with so few left after the Aztecs faithful have swarmed them up.
This will be the fourth San Diego home field where I have seen the Aztecs play, the first game in their own stadium since 1966, and the first true home game since…you guessed it, 2019.
Below, senior linebacker Seyddrick Lakalaka discusses in our YouTube podcast, his experience touring Snapdragon Stadium and how having a true home field advantage will be special for this years Aztecs football team.
There will plenty to look at this Saturday for us Aztecs fans. The freshly painted football gridiron, the Piers reaching out across the south endzone, the not one but two video boards, and of course the amazing players entrance tunnel at midfield. But there’s equally just as much action to take notice on the field as off.
The Aztecs are picked to finish 2nd in the Mountain West—Western division for 2022—the final year where divisions will exist in the conference. While many starters return on both offense and defense it wasn’t enough to garner a defending division crown in the preseason rankings. The underdog role is just how the SDSU program likes it. Saturday’s scrimmage will give a good glimpse into the question marks still lingering around the roster.
While the quarterback position question has been clearly defined as Braxton Burmeister’s position to lose, Coach Brady Hoke has been very vocal about one of the other big question marks around the program—the offensive line.
Hoke has certainly been impressed with young lineman Ross Maseuli and Josh Simmons. It will be center Alama Uluave’s senior leadership the unit will have to depend upon to help guide any youthful tendencies from straying too far. Add in big Brandon Crenshaw-Dickson to the mix and this line is massive if not overly experienced. But can they give Burmeister enough time to show us all why he was so coveted in the transfer market from offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski?
On the defensive line, gone is Cam Thomas, the third round pick of the Arizona Cardinals and last years QB pressure leader in the conference. To help solidify Keshawn Banks and Jonah Tavai is brother Justice Tavai transferring in from Hawaii.
Below is Keshawn Banks explaining how both Tavai brothers will help make up the difference and bolster the defensive line unit.
One defensive line addition to also keep an eye on is the movement of Garret Fountain from linebacker—a decision made in early Spring. Standing at 6’4″ 250lbs Fountain has the room to grow into this position.
Think you got what it takes to tailgate with the Sons of Montezuma? We want to get familiar with our new home with YOU. Keep an eye for the Sons of Montezuma flags at this weekend’s scrimmage at the YELLOW tailgate lot and stop by to say hello. We are all excited to open up the Snapdragon with all the Aztec energy San Diego has been building up. We will have our famous Monty Skull tailgate flags available for pre-sale now.