Written By: Chris Webb
It’s not even November yet, but the Blazers last home game is already upon us.
This Saturday at 3 p.m., Valdosta State (4-2, 2-2) will be hosting Shorter University (3-3, 1-2).
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” senior linebacker Justin Williams said.
Williams, who played high school football for Valdosta High School feels that time will come once he runs out the tunnel Saturday.
“I have played a lot of games in that stadium going way back to high school,” Williams added. “Knowing it’s going to be my last game there I might get a little emotional before kickoff.”
Apart from being “Senior Night,” the Gulf South Conference battle with SU is also this year’s Homecoming Game for the Blazers.
This will be the third matchup between the two schools since Shorter joined the GSC only two years ago. VSU has dominated going 2-0 while outscoring the Hawks 78-6.
VSU is sitting at 2-1 at home this season with their only loss coming in disappointing fashion to No. 20 Delta State University 32-49 back on Sept. 20.
That loss combined with the heart breaking last second defeat to No. 3 North Alabama has put the Blazers in early “playoff” mode.
“We know if we expect to be in the playoffs we are going to have to win from here on out,” head coach David Dean said following their 2-2 start.
The Blazers have taken their coach’s remarks to heart going 2-0 and out scoring West Georgia and Mississippi College by a combined 102-6 since.
“I am real proud of them, their backs are against the wall and they have been playing that way,” Dean said. “I couldn’t be more happy with how this group has responded.”
Defensively the “Black Swarm” has looked lights out the past couple weeks only allowing two field goals and 400 total yards to their opponents.
VSU’s last conceded touchdown came back on Sept. 27, a span of over eight quarters. This has Dean feeling this group may have finally started to “click.”
“We are starting to play better,” Dean said. “I think a lot of it has to deal with practice. we’ve been practicing a lot better the past two weeks… we are coming out more focused each day and you can tell it’s carrying over to Saturdays.”
The “Black Swarm” will look to shutdown a Hawks attack that is lead by quarterback Eric Dodson who enters the contest with more rushing attempts (90) than passes thrown (50) this season.
“We are very fortunate with how the scheduling worked out for us these past two weeks,” Dean said. “The offense we face this week is very similar to what we played last week. It should be a great carry over for us.”
On the other side of the ball the Blazers have looked just as deadly bringing with them one of the nation’s best rushing attacks.
Lead by running backs Austin Scott, Cedric O’Neal and quarterback Jake Medlock, VSU is averaging over 235 yards a game on the ground, good enough for 18th best in the nation.
Entering Saturday, Scott is the Blazers current leading rusher with 422 yards on 67 carries with three touchdowns.
O’Neal’s five touchdowns are good enough for the team lead and his 367 yards is currently third on the squad.
Rounding out the dangerous trio is the 6-foot 3, 226-pound Medlock who has looked very dangerous as a dual threat option behind center in recent weeks.
“I call myself the power back of the group,” Medlock said. “Picking up 10 to 15 yards is what I’m good at.”
Don’t think it’s just running the ball he’s good at though. In last week’s 62-0 whooping of Mississippi College Medlock completed 95 percent of his passes, going 19-20 to set a new GSC single game record for completion percentage.
He went on to finish with 248 yards and three touchdowns before being replaced in the third quarter with the game already in hand.
Medlock has looked much more comfortable and efficient in running the offense since since Dean benched him the second half of the DSU game.
Dean wasn’t happy with some of the reads Medlock was making in the option that day and decided to send his talented senior signal caller a message.
Since Medlock returned behind center against UNA he has gathered 888 combined yards and eight total touchdowns, his 160.3 passing efficiency also brings him in at 11th in the country.
“I think he has learned from some of his early mistakes,” Dean said. “He now has a lot more confidence in his protection up front, and has also learned our wide receivers tendencies a little better, he’s put all that together and I think you can see him playing with a lot more confidence in the pocket because of it.”