2021 Richmond vs James Madison

Spring Rivalry Game Has Special Significance For JMU

Spring Rivalry Game Has Special Significance For JMU

James Madison is geared up for a unique rivalry week to conclude the 2021 spring regular season.

Apr 16, 2021 by Kyle Kensing
Spring Rivalry Game Has Special Significance For JMU

With just a two-hour drive separating Harrisonburg and Richmond, it’s no wonder the James Madison roster is stocked with a variety of players from the Richmond area. 

Just as unsurprising, the shared territory and familiarity between James Madison and the University of Richmond breeds rivalry. 

“Call it ‘tick week,’” said Highland Springs High School product and Dukes defensive lineman Mike Greene of the preparation leading up to James Madison’s annual meeting with Richmond. 

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Dismissive nicknames for rivals, like labeling the Spiders as the wrong type of arachnid, contribute to the fun and excitement of such football feuds. In April 2021, the rivalry takes on particular importance in Bridgeforth Stadium. 

The Dukes welcome the Spiders from the short drive to Harrisonburg in a matchup of unbeaten teams and highly ranked squads — Richmond at No. 12, James Madison at No. 1. The winner takes the Colonial Athletic Association South division, and almost assuredly, a spot in the FCS Playoffs. 

While the Dukes “come into the [season] every year wanting to win a championship,” according to Greene, the prospect of claiming this season’s crown is especially meaningful. 

“We could say we’re the first team in the history of football to win a spring championship,” Greene said. 

Pursuit of history is the reward for getting through an especially difficult year-plus, validation for the hours put in to maintain shape during quarantine; the tests taken and sacrifices made in order to make this campaign happen. 

A championship provides the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel — and that light shines a little brighter on rivalry week with Bridgeforth welcoming an audience for the first time since the 2019 FCS semifinals win over Weber State. 

The stadium won’t be full, with 30 percent capacity allowed, but could feel like 100 after the past year. 

“We haven’t heard a ‘Go Dukes’ all year,” Greene said. “I don’t know the last time I heard a first-down chant.” 

Not that anyone’s counting, but it would have been about 483 days ago. 

“[Having fans in attendance] will be great,” said James Madison coach Curt Cignetti. “I suspect we’ll have a great week of preparation...and be excited to play.” 

Greene added he’s hopeful that with a playoff berth, the Dukes also receive hosting duties. It’s a possibility: Bridgeforth Stadium is one of the 14 prospective sites the NCAA unveiled last week. 

The spring playoffs are no different than just about anything else in this pandemic era, however, in that they’re completely different from usual. Having better seeding isn’t a guarantee of hosting as in postseasons past. 

That makes this installment of the rivalry with Richmond all the more special, the only assured opportunity for Dukes faithful to show appreciation to a James Madison team that endured circumstances none before had.