The No.17 Valdosta State football team (9-2) is two games shy from returning to the Division II national championship game.
The Blazers didn’t win the Gulf South Conference yet no one is fazed because they have a bigger fish to fry.
That fish being a national championship title has become clearer in their sights after the 49-21 win over the 2012 GSC champions West Alabama on Nov. 24 in the second round of the NCAA playoffs.
The Black Swarm forced the Tigers to 187 total yards while VSU freshman running back Austin Scott ran for three touchdowns and 133 yards.
Arguably their best played game of the season was displayed in front of a home crowd with less than 2000 attendees.
Although the crowd should significantly increase at this week’s matchup, VSU plans to take care of business regardless of how many people arrive as they did last week.
“It feels good but at the same time when we get on the field we got a job to do,” Edmund Kugbila, senior offensive guard, said. “We appreciate everybody showing up but we still got a job to do. Regardless if people show up, we got to win for V-State.”
The post-season journey doesn’t get any easier for the Blazers who host No. 24 Carson-Newman (9-2) Saturday at Bazemore-Hyder Field.
This weekend’s contest features two of the eight finalists for the 2012 Gene Upshaw D-II Lineman of the Year award.
South Region II finalist All-SAC center Kevin Day is the anchor of the Eagles solid offensive line whom have had major influence to why Carson-Newman leads D-II in rushing yards per game.
Senior quarterback Brandon Haywood and junior running back Brandon Baker can be expected to share the majority of rushes against the Blazers.
The other South Region II finalist is 6’7 senior offensive tackle Ryan Schroeder.
The 2013 NFL Draft prospect has only allowed one sack this season with 56 knockdown blocks.
Ken Sparks, the winningst coach in Division II history, leads the Eagles back to Valdosta for the first since 2008 when the Blazers won 24-20.
VSU head coach David Dean has the upmost respect for his friend and colleague.
“We’ve become good friends over the past couple years. On some Division II committees together, I’ve really gotten to know him very well. He’s a great man, great football coach, he’s a guy I respect greatly. In this profession anytime you can stay at one school for thirty years that shows a lot about your commitment.”
The five-time NAIA champs come into this matchup looking to continue their effective combination in running schemes which has propelled this Eagle team back into contention to compete for a DII national title for the first time since 2009.
VSU cornerback Manny Evans who suffered a concussion in last week’s victory is ruled out indefinitely for Saturday.
For the second straight game, the Blazers will be without senior place kicker Daniel Anderson.
Pierce County graduate Jake Walker will fill his position as he did last week while freshman Dominic DeMasi handles punting duties.
“I think they’re excited to play again. I’m really looking forward to seeing if we can play with the same type of energy and enthusiasm from the second, third quarter from this last game,” said Dean.
The winner of the contest will advance to the semifinals of the playoffs. Kickoff is set for noon Dec. 1.