It feels really good to be number one. Really.
The Blazers have passed every test this season and with an 8-2 overall record, they have earned their number one ranking in their region for the 2012 NCAA Division II playoffs.
VSU (8-2, 4-1 GSC) survived a close game against the Texas A&M-Kingsville Javelinas on senior night by a score of 38-31.
Some notable seniors that will be leaving the Blazers after this year are defensive end and Gulf South Player of the Week Tyler Josey and kicker Daniel Anderson. Along with preseason All-American lineman Edmund Kugbila and Ryan Schraeder, center Jake Thomas and former Florida State defensive back Greg Reid.
Coach David Dean’s prediction of the underclassmen playing hard for the seniors was true.
After allowing the opening touchdown less than four minutes into the game, the Blazers tied the game up and preceded to score back and forth with the Javelinas until freshman running back Cedric O’Neal score an 8- yard touchdown with just seconds left in the game.
“It was great to pull that victory out,” Dean said. “You thought at some points of the game that we would pull away in the game, but they just kept coming back. From a fan’s perspective, it was a heck of a football game.”
Quarterback Cayden Cochran continued his strong play by passing for 331 yards and four touchdowns and also gained Gulf South Player of the Week honors.
Regginald Lewis lead the team in receiving with 107 yards and receiver Gerald Ford scored two touchdowns.
The Blazer defense gave up 495 yards of total offense and will have to slow someone down to advance deep into the playoffs.
Dean thinks that the team can only get better on defense and the defensive backs will excel with more experience.
“We’re playing with two young safeties,” Dean said. “If we can eliminate the big plays from the games we play, our margin of victory will be a lot higher.”
The Blazers are the top seed in Region Two that includes familiar foes Albany State, Fort Valley State, North Alabama and West Alabama as well.
The Blazers also receive a first round bye with their ranking.
“I was surprised that we jumped from number three to one in the region,” Dean said. “If we can hold on to that number one ranking through this week, we’ll have home-field advantage throughout the region.”
Despite averaging 43 points per game during the team’s six-game winning streak, Dean feels that their strength of schedule contributed to their number-one ranking the most.
Region Two is the only region in the playoffs that does not have an undefeated or one-loss team in the bracket.
Dean is not a fan of having to play a lot of the same teams for a second time in the playoffs this year.
“It takes away from the accomplishments of the regular season,” Dean said. “There’s a lot of teams out there that are undefeated that didn’t play the tough teams we had to play this season. I would love to trade our schedule with some other the teams that are undefeated. The southeast is a tough area to be in.”
Though Dean does not like playing the same teams twice, he let it be known that the Blazers are scared of no one.
The Blazers will kick off the playoffs in the second round after their bye week on Nov. 24.