Lions roll into football semifinal

Redshirt sophomore Frank Williams prepares to rush the offensive line in a quarterfinal matchup against North Greenville in Braly Stadium Dec. 3. The Lions rolled to a 38-0 win and will advance to the semifinal round for the first time since 2008.

North Alabama will advance to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs for the first time since 2008, after it dismantled North Greenville 38-0 Dec. 3 at Braly Stadium.

The Lions (10-1, 7-0 Gulf South Conference) played through a frigid and rainy afternoon in Florence unfazed, as they put up 38 unanswered points in the rematch (9-5, 0-0 Division II Independent).

“I’m real proud to be playing in the semifinals,” said UNA head coach Bobby Wallace. “It’ll be a great experience to have that opportunity to play a game to reach the national championship game.”

UNA’s defense held North Greenville to 181 yards of total offense and forced Crusaders quarterback Will Hunter to throw four interceptions. Hunter had thrown four interceptions all season entering the game.

The Lions also handed the Crusaders its first shutout loss of the season.

“Our goal each week is to minimize the amount of points we allow,” said junior safety Dorsey Norris. “Shutting them out was great, and to do that this late in the playoffs is great for us.”

Offensively, UNA finished with 401 yards of total of offense on 78 plays. Despite the offensive production, the Lions had two turnovers. Senior quarterback Jacob Tucker said the offensive play was not always in sync, but did enough to get the victory and move on.

“I take (the blame) upon myself,” Tucker said. “I had two turnovers. The interception was a poor decision by me, and the fumble, I just didn’t have the ball secured. I’m not going to use the rain as an excuse. That’s something I got to take care of.”

Junior wide receiver Dre Hall finished with six receptions for 84-yards and a touchdown. In the process, Hall broke the school’s career receptions record of 162, as well as the single season receiving yards record of 955.

“It’s been fun to watch him from a freshman (to now),” Wallace said. “That’s the fun of coaching, to watch a player as a freshman get better and better. Dre has one year to go, so he’s going to demolish records.”

Tucker said the victory means a lot to him and the seniors.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “The biggest thing is, I get to wake up tomorrow and still be a college football player, and that’s something I feel like I’ve taken for granted over the years. I’m thankful to be a part of it.”

The remaining teams are No. 3 Shepherd (13-0) from Super Region 1, No. 1 Northwest Missouri State (13-0) from Super Region 3, and No. 2 Ferris State (12-2) from Super Region 4. UNA is the top seed from Super Region 2.

The NCAA announced UNA will travel to Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, West Virginia Dec. 10 for the semifinals. The winner will advance to the national championship game Dec. 17 in Kansas City, Kansas.