Written by: Chris Webb.
After combining for 1,177 yards and 55 points in just the fourth quarter last season, two high-powered offenses look ready to light up the scoreboard again Saturday (7 p.m.) at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
When bitter conference rival No. 14 Delta State (1-0) comes into town for a rematch of last year’s high scoring contest, No. 13 Valdosta State (2-0) will be looking for revenge. Last year’s shootout saw the Statesmen escape with a 63-55 win.
Both teams are looking to get started on the right foot for the first GSC matchup of the year because one conference loss could cost either team a spot in the playoffs.
“It’s always important to get off to a strong start in conference play,” linebacker Kenny Murphy said. “We know they are a good team but so are we. We’re just looking to make our first step towards the conference championship, hopefully.”
VSU looks to keep the momentum rolling on both sides of the ball after defeating No. 18 Winston-Salem State 22-17 last week. The Blazer offense gained 391 total yards, picking up a whopping 229 of those on the ground behind their powerful rushing attack.
VSU senior quarterback Jake Medlock, coming off GSC Offensive Player of the Week, led the Blazers going 16-27 for 162 yards. He also rushed 14 times for 76 yards and a touchdown.
Medlock, also the team’s punter, garnered GSC Special Teams Player of the Week after a key 75-yard punt late in the fourth quarter. This punt pinned the Rams on their own two-yard line as the Blazers held onto a slim lead, all with less than two minutes remaining in the game.
Junior running back Austin Scott recorded his seventh career 100-yard game as he earned 127 yards on 22 carries.
Junior Cedric O’Neal was able to punch in two short goal line chances for touchdowns.
Medlock knows the importance of the rushing attack for the Blazers’ offense.
“We control the ball and the clock,” Medlock said. “It keeps their offense off the field and most importantly gives our defense more time to rest on the sidelines.”
The Blazer defense looked rested and ready when it counted most last week, restricting a powerful WSSU team to only 17 points. The “Black Swarm” was successful in pressuring the Rams’ quarterbacks with nine hurries, never letting them get any real momentum moving the ball.
They will look for the same results and effort in rushing the passer this week when heraldedDelta State quarterback, sophomore Tyler Sullivan, leads the fast-paced Statesmen offense into town.
“There is a reason [Sullivan] was the freshman of the year last season,” VSU head coach David Dean said. “He makes good decisions and consistently has them in good situations.”
Sullivan went 34-48 for 520 yards and 4 touchdowns in last year’s victory over VSU and won the GSC Offensive Freshman of the Year over the offseason. He remains a key part of the Statesman offense and presents another major test early in the season for the Blazer defense.
Sullivan went 23-31 for 217 yards and 3 touchdowns in DSU’s opener against Fort Valley State.
“They run an up-tempo no-huddle offense that gets right back on the ball as soon as it hits the ground,” Dean said. “It is going to be a mental as well as physical challenge for this football team.”
Kenny Murphy, who led the defense Saturday with 11 tackles, is more than ready for the challenge, though.
“Coach Dean always tells us success is not a destination, it’s a journey,” Murphy said. “We know we have to keep working each week to be where we want to be at the end of the season.”