Lions, Blazers battle for round two


Sequels are rarely as good as the original but another win against Valdosta State University will be even better this time around for the Lions.

UNA (9-1) hosts Valdosta State (8-2) Nov. 22 at noon in the first round of the D-II playoffs. The Lions defeated the Blazers 31-29 Sept. 27 off a school record 54-yard field goal by Taylor Pontius as time expired.

“The sequel is going to be even better on our behalf,” said junior running back Lamonte Thompson. “I don’t know about them but we’re going do to our thing most definitely.”

Head coach Bobby Wallace said he is prepared for another close game against Valdosta State.

“It’s going to be another 60-minute knock down game,” he said. “The game will probably get decided in the fourth quarter like usual.”

Thompson said the Blazers will be heavily motivated to avenge their loss from the previous match-up.

“I know this time they will be coming at our heads,” Thompson said. “That’s what I like, though. It’s going to be a show Saturday.”

In the last game against the Blazers, Thompson finished with 140 yards rushing and two touchdowns. Thompson ended the regular season with the second most rushing yards in the Gulf South Conference (818) and the most rushing touchdowns (11).

“I feel like our offense has gotten better since we last played them,” he said.

The Lions offense has been balanced all season as they are averaging 203 yards rushing and 228.9 yards passing per game. UNA is also averaging 36.4 points per game, second best in the conference.

“Hopefully we can stay balanced because it’s going to take that if we’re going to win,” Wallace said. “We’re the kind of offense that when we’re running and throwing we’re so much better.”

Junior quarterback Luke Wingo has passed for 1,780 yards, 11 touchdowns and six interceptions this season. Wingo has also used his legs to rush for five touchdowns.

Junior receiver Delvon Carpenter had four catches for 113 yards the last time the Lions and Blazers clashed. Carpenter has 697 receiving yards and six touchdowns on the season to lead the Lions.

The defense will try to slow down a Blazers offense averaging 35.1 points and 464.4 yards per game. Valdosta State has used two different quarterbacks this season which has caused some problems with the UNA preparation, Wallace said.

“We don’t know which one they’re going to play,” he said. “They both play two different styles and that’s what’s giving us some issues. One is more of a zone read and running quarterback and the other is going to be more of a passing guy. We have to prepare for both of them.”

Blazers quarterback Jake Medlock received most of the snaps against the Lions the first time and finished with 176 yards passing and 57 yards rushing.

“Defensively it will come down to everyone doing their assignment,” said senior defensive end Chavez Smith. “I’m confident in the secondary and the whole team to do their job.”

Wallace said the defense will have to do a better job of being aggressive and making tackles in the open field than last time the two teams played.

Blazers running back Cedric O’Neal finished the game with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

O’Neal finished the regular season with 652 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

The Lions were able to get extra rest to prepare for this game thanks to last weeks game being played on a Thursday instead of a Saturday. UNA defeated the University of West Alabama 24-16 Nov. 13.

“Since we haven’t had a bye since our first game, it is really important to get some extra time,” Wallace said. “We’re a little banged up, and it helped to just get the players away from football for a Saturday and Sunday so they can get refreshed heading into the playoffs.”

Thompson said if the game comes down to the wire UNA will rise to the occasion again to defeat Valdosta State.

“It’s do or die, because if you lose you go home,” he said. “I feel like our guys understand that and they know what’s at hand.”

The winner between the Lions and Blazers will travel to North Carolina to take on the undefeated Lenior-Rhyne Bears Nov. 29. The Bears defeated the Lions 42-39 last year in the third round of the playoffs en route to finishing as the runner-up in the NCAA D-II National Championship.