Valdosta State Falls 31-17 to West Georgia

VALDOSTA, Ga. – No. 25 West Georgia raced out to a 14-0 lead and never looked back as the Wolves defeated 21st-ranked Valdosta State 31-17 in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Division II Football Playoffs Saturday afternoon at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.

Austin Scott is tackled by West Georgia Wolves defenders.  Scott, Cerdic Brown and VSU rushed for 146 yards in the losing effort. Photo: Danielle Bundrick/SGSN

Austin Scott is tackled by West Georgia Wolves defenders. Scott, Cerdic Brown and VSU rushed for 146 yards in the losing effort. Photo: Danielle Bundrick/SGSN

With the victory, the Wolves, who entered the postseason as the Super Region 2 sixth-seed, advanced to the NCAA semifinals for the first time in school history and improved its record to 12-2 on the season. Meanwhile, Valdosta State, the Super Region 2 fifth-seed, ended its season at 10-3.

West Georgia opened the scoring on its first drive of the game as it marched 46 yards on eight plays. Denarius Appling gave the Wolves the ball on the VSU side of the field as he returned a punt 36 yards to the Blazer 46. Dallas Dickey proceeded to complete two of three passes for 20 yards and ran the ball twice for 10 more yards before Appling carried for 13 yards to the VSU three yard line. Seth Hinsley closed out the drive with a three-yard touchdown run up the middle to give the Wolves a 7-0 lead with 8:48 to go in the first quarter.

Following another Valdosta State punt, UWG needed just one play to push its lead to two touchdowns as Dickey hit tight end Walter Hibbler down the middle of the field for a 54-yard touchdown pass.

The Blazers closed back to within seven points on the ensuing drive as they used 12 plays and more than six minutes of the clock to move 72 yards. Much of the VSU damage on the drive came on the ground as Valdosta State ran on eight of the plays for 45 yards. Cedric O’Neal closed out the drive when he took a handoff and busted through the middle of the line for a 21-yard rushing touchdown.

Anthony Pistelli kicked a 31 yard field goal midway through the second quarter to close Valdosta State to within four points. The field goal was his 23rd successful attempt of the season, which established a new Gulf South Conference and Valdosta State record.

West Georgia responded with a touchdown four minutes later when Hinsley scored on a 12-yard run, but the Blazers answered with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Jake Medlock to Chris Anderson 77 seconds before the half to establish a 21-17 UWG lead at the intermission.

After the two offenses combined for 495 yards of total offense in the first half, the defenses dominated the third quarter as the Wolves managed just 45 yards in the frame and Valdosta State only 42. VSU eventually moved the ball on its second drive of the fourth quarter as it closed to the UWG 31, but saw a 47-yard field goal attempt by Pistelli sail wide right to preserve the West Georgia four-point advantage.

The Wolves answered the missed field goal with an attempt of their own as Hunter Heck made a 26-yard attempt to push the UWG advantage to 24-17 before West Georgia’s defense forced a VSU punt. Appling fielded the punt at the UWG 41 and ran untouched to the end zone for the game’s final points.

Valdosta State held a 379 to 338 advantage in total yards in the game, but saw West Georgia own a 95 to 8 advantage in punt return yards.

Valdosta State’s Medlock completed 22 of his 30 passes for 221 yards and also ran for 37 yards while Cedric O’Neal tallied 63 yards on the ground. Meanwhile, Dickey completed 11-of-19 passes for 192 yards for West Georgia, including seven passes for 113 yards to Earvin Anumgba.

The Valdosta State defense sacked Dickey five times in the game. Duran Lowe led the Blazer defense with 12 tackles, including nine solo stops.

Tyrell Adams, who had one of two UWG interceptions in the game, and Tory Slater each had 10 tackles to lead West Georgia.

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