by: Chris Kessler
No. 1 Valdosta State (1-0) plays their home opener against Gulf South Conference rival Shorter (0-2) this Saturday at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.�
“It’s weird; it does seem like a long time since we’ve had a home game. But we’re excited to have an opportunity to play at home and get the atmosphere of a home game,” said Coach David Dean.
Saturday’s contest is the GSC opener for both teams.
A win could set the table for a successful season for the Blazers, while the Hawks try to stop the bleeding with a rough start.
“We have to get off to a 1-0 start in conference if we want to have an opportunity to win the conference,” said Dean.
The Hawks run a veer option attack on offense lead by quarterback Eric Dodson and fullback Bradley Moon.
Dodson leads SU with 264 rushing yards on the season, and Moon led the GSC last season in rushing.
“What you have to do is limit their big plays, and force them into those long yardage situations,” said Dean.
Defensively, VSU’s biggest key will be playing discipline football to prevent explosive plays.
“Any time you play an option team it’s all assignment football,” Dean said. “You make sure someone is on the dive, the quarterback and the pitch man, but still aware of them pulling back and throwing down the field, there’s just so many options they have to go by.”
This week VSU had some difficulties preparing for the upcoming unique offense in practice.
“Their offense is something we can’t practice for because we don’t have any players in here that run that type of offense, so to simulate it in practice is difficult,” Dean said. “We’re going to go into it blind as far as the speed is concerned.”
The Blazer’s best defense against Shorter could be their offense. If VSU can get ahead early, it will force Shorter to rely on Dodson’s arm, rather than legs to make plays. Dodson has completed less than 35 percent of his passes along with three interceptions.
“That’s what you got to do when you play those option teams, force them to do the things they’re not comfortable doing, then they play into your hands a little bit,” Dean said. “If we can get a big enough lead, hopefully we can force them to do that. It’s going to be a heck of a challenge for us.”
There’s more at stake besides conference standings. VSU wants to continue their winning ways against new rivals and continue their establishment as top D-II program in Georgia.
“As far as recruiting goes, we want to be undefeated against all the teams we play in state, and this is the second one. From that aspect, to go 2-0 in the state is very good,” said Dean.
Kick-off is scheduled for 7pm at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium Saturday.