West Georgia’s season came to an end this past Saturday.
Dreams of an upset did not come true for a packed crowd on Senior Night. Instead, the no. 1 ranked Valdosta State Blazers invaded Carrollton and pulled away in the second half for a 42-14 win.
The Blazers jumped on the board first in the Battle for the Peach Basket. Jamar Thompkins barreled into the end zone from 26 yards out to put Valdosta State up 7-0 early in the first. The lead would double only a few minutes later, as Rogan Wells connected with Kenny Benjamin on a 20-yard strike.
Down 14-0 to the top team in the land, most teams would lie down and concede defeat. The West Georgia Wolves did not land in that category.
Senior signal-caller Willie Candler, who was finally cleared to return to play on Saturday, quickly threw a touchdown pass to John Hurst. The 27-yard score made it 14-7 VSU through one quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Valdosta State drove the length of the field. Coach Gary Goff rolled the dice and went for it on fourth down deep in West Georgia territory.
The gamble did not pay off. As a matter of fact, it went about as bad as it could have went for VSU.
UWG senior Latrell Gibbs intercepted Wells’ pass at his own five yard line and ran it all the way back for a score. The pick six tied the game at 14-all and shifted every bit of momentum at University Stadium in favor of the Wolves.
Valdosta State’s rushing attack once again brought them down the field. Thompkins recorded his second rushing touchdown with 13:16 left to play in the first half. His 20-yard run put the Blazers back up 21-14.
Willie Candler led the offense into Valdosta territory, but the drive stalled out at the five yard line. Omar Cervantes’ 22-yard field goal attempt swayed wide right, keeping it a one-touchdown game. Neither offense could find any success in the final six minutes of the second quarter, taking the teams into halftime in a 21-14 game.
To open the second half, coach David Dean took a risk of his own. West Georgia attempted and recovered an onside kick to immediately get them back in business on offense.
UWG’s offense, as would be a trend in the second half, struggled to find success against the Blazer defense. A 42-yard field goal attempt from Cervantes wound up being no good to keep it 21-14.
Valdosta State took advantage of this opportunity. Their very talented rush offense took over the game for the length of the second half. Jamar Thompkins tallied his third rushing touchdown, this time from 18 yards out, early in the third to put VSU up 28-14.
Later in the quarter, Seth McGill put the game out of reach for the Blazers. He found pay-dirt on a four-yard scamper making it 35-14 with 3:31 left in the third.
The fourth quarter was similarly quiet for UWG’s offense. The only score of the final interval came for Valdosta State, as Quahlin Patterson scored on another four-yard run. When all was said and done, the Blazers won the Battle for the Peach Basket 42-14.
With the win, no. 1 Valdosta State finishes the regular season 10-0 (8-0). They will head to the NCAA Division II Playoffs as the top-seed in their region.