Football finishes last season in Division II

By Sports Editor Jacob Cole

North Alabama football will transition to Division I after a difficult season

The Lions had high hopes coming into its last season in the Gulf South Conference with the team earning pre-season first place honors.

Injuries derailed the Lions season, but first-year head coach Chris Willis said the season did not turn out like he wanted, but he is ready for the new challenge.

“This win was a lot for the history of the program,” he said. “It’s not the season we wanted, by no means, but I’m not sure how we could have done much more with what we had. I’m proud of the way the team battled and proud to get these seniors a win. Now we can great ready to start a new adventure in Division I.”

The Lions won its season finale 16-7 over Mississippi College to end it season 5-5 overall and 3-3 in GSC play.

For many UNA seniors this was their last game as a Lion. Senior defensive tackle Freddie Reed said he was happy to finish his career with a win.

“To get a win like this in my last game is a great feeling,” Reed said. “It was tough for our offense with all the injuries, so we had to weather the storm just like we’ve done all season. We just had to execute and finish the game strong.”

The Lions began the season with three losses in four games. The early start doomed the Lions in the long run.

With a 1-3 overall record and a 1-2 GSC record the Lions needed a boost. UNA went 3-1 in the next four games to give the Lions a shot at the GSC title. With three straight conference wins in the four-game span, UNA made its record 4-4 overall and 4-2 in the GSC.

The Lions title hopes ended with a loss to West Florida and a West Alabama win in the same week.

UNA finished the year with a .500 record for the year.

Willis said the feeling walking off the field for the last time brought up memories for him.

“It is bittersweet for me because I’ve spent 19 years in the GSC,” Willis said. “I think about all the great memories on this field. I remember coming here as a kid and watching one of the Division II championship games.”

The Lions will open up at North Dakota State next year in its first season as a Division I FCS team.