Mistakes Cost Football in Playoff Loss at Valdosta State


VALDOSTA, GA -- Valdosta State University capitalized on several mistakes by visiting Catawba as the eighth-ranked Blazers claimed a 55-29 win in the second round of the NCAA II Football Playoffs on Saturday afternoon at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.  VSU, now 10-1, advances to host North Alabama in next weekend’s Southeast Region final.  The Catawba Indians, ranked 12th, end their season at 11-2.

Valdosta State jumped on top in the opening minute as Sherard Reynolds retuned a fumble on the game’s second play 34-yards for a quick 7-0 lead just 55 seconds into the contest.  Catawba answered the score with an 11-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by a George Bell (Fayetteville, NC/Britt HS) two-yard run.  The point-after was blocked leaving the Blazers ahead 7-6.

The Indians would grab the lead on its next possession.  Brad Roach (Williamston, NC/Williamston HS) guided the Tribe 94 yards over 10 plays to put Catawba on top 13-7 following a 24-yard pass to Brandon Bunn (Virginia Beach, VA/Kellam HS). 

The teams would combine on three field goals in the second quarter.  Zak Williams hit two for the Blazers, including a 31-yarder on the final play of the first half to pull VSU within 16-13.  Cory Darnell (Rural Hall, NC/N. Forsyth HS) had a 38-yard field goal for Catawba.

Valdosta State opened the second half with a big kickoff return to the Catawba 45 and the Blazers took a 20-16 lead on a five-yard pass from Willie Copeland to Josh Rayam.  Catawba advanced deep into Blazer territory on its next possession, but Travis Harrison blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt and Kenneth Hale returned it to the Tribe 27.  Michael Terry scored from four-yards out three plays later for a 27-16 edge.

After moving the ball to the VSU 40, Roach was intercepted by Roger King at the 10-yard-line.  Valdosta State would march 92 yards and scored on a 27-yard pass from Copeland to Cedric Jones.  Catawba failed to handle the ensuing kick and VSU added another score as Terry carried three times to cover all 19 yards of the drive which ended on his one-yard run and a 41-16 lead with 11:58 remaining.

Catawba fell behind 48-16 before Roach led a pair of late Catawba scoring drives.  He threw touchdown passes of eight yards to Brent Johnson (Hickory, NC/Hickory HS) and 29 yards to Lee Page (Dillon, SC/Dillon HS).  The senior finished with 278 yards on 19-of-32 passing with three scores.  Bell ran for 74 yards on 16 carries and scored for the 20th time this season.  Antwan Strong (Charlotte, NC/W. Charlotte HS) was the top receiver with seven catches for 96 yards.

Terry led VSU with 139 yards rushing on 23 attempts.  Copeland was 16-of-29 through air for 171 yards and two scores.  Jones had five catches for 76 yards.  VSU totaled 456 yards of offense with 285 coming on the ground.  Catawba had 413 yards, but had four turnovers, a blocked field goal and two blocked extra points.

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