Lions gets huge road win against Valdosta State

The Lions traveled to Valdosta, Ga., Saturday to play GSC foe Valdosta State and grabbed a come-from-behind win 30-23.

UNA had to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to secure a victory over the Blazers.

With 2:30 to play in the first quarter, UNA was the first to get on the scoreboard with a four-yard pass from Lee Chapple to Jason Smith for a touchdown.

Josh Montgomery added the extra point. Lee Chapple was 26-38 passing with two interceptions for 247 yards on the game.

VSU replied back 14 seconds later with a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown; however, special teams member Janoris Jenkins blocked the Blazer’s extra point, making way for Darnell Jackson to return the PAT for three points, putting the Lions on top 9-6.

With 3:41 to go in the second quarter, VSU scored off an 11-play drive, retaking the lead 13-9. Not giving up, UNA replied back with a one-yard run for a touchdown by Chris Coffey set up by a seven-play, 63-yard drive with 46 seconds to play in the first half. Montgomery added the extra point, putting the Lions up 16-13.

For the next 37 seconds, VSU managed five plays and 57 yards, ending with a 33-yard touchdown pass, switching the lead yet again in Valdosta State’s favor with only six seconds left of play before halftime.

The UNA special teams took charge in those last seconds. Kickoff returner Jenkins kept the ball in play well after the time ran down off the clock, returning the ball to the VSU five-yard line before halftime.

Bryan Thomas was a key ingredient to the Lion defense against the Blazers.

“We’ve got to have a strong will to win every game,” Thomas said. “Our motto last year was never, never, never quit. We’ve always got to keep going and accepting adversity. It’s a football game; our opponent will make plays, we will make plays-it’s all about how we react after it happens. We have to stay positive, and we can overcome anything.”

The UNA team did just that. Coming out after halftime, VSU was the first to score, hitting a 26-yard field goal with 11 seconds to go in the third quarter; however, that would be that last time Valdosta would put points on the scoreboard in the GSC battle. UNA would go on to score 14 unanswered points in the fourth quarter.

Tristan Purifoy blocked a Blazer punt with 8:08 to go in the fourth quarter, giving way for Robbie Burdine to return the ball 22 yards for a touchdown, followed by a Montgomery extra point.

The blocked punt and score tied the ball game at 23 a piece.

With 57 seconds left to play, a 79-yard, 12-play drive set up a 16-yard pass from Chapple to Wes Holland for a touchdown, and with the Montgomery kick, UNA led VSU 30-23 with less than a minute to play.

The game was still not over, as the last play of the game for UNA was against a back-up VSU quarterback, and a victory-saving interception in the end zone to secure the win by safety, Bryan Thomas.

“I had a sigh of relief (after he picked of VSU’s pass) that the game was over,” Thomas said. “The game plan was working. An opportunity came for a play to be made, and it just happened that I was in the right place at the right time.”

The Lions will travel to GSC rival West Alabama in Livingston for the first round of the playoffs Saturday Nov. 19. Kickoff will be at noon in Tiger Stadium.

The winner of that game will go on to play at Delta State Nov. 26 as the Division II playoffs get underway.

The Flor-Ala will be live at the game on Saturday. Follow @FlorAlaSports on Twitter for live updates.