Valdosta State and West Georgia combined for 1,008 yards of offense but the Wolves found the end zone more often defeating the Blazers 42-13 to claim the Peach Basket at Ra-Lin Field Saturday afternoon.
West Georgia scored two touchdowns early and it appeared the route was on. Shaq Roland nearly bumped his head on the crossbar to haul in the first touchdown pass from Willie Candler to open the scoring. Running back Devontae Jackson added the second score racing untouched, except for a pat on the shoulder by free safety Brandon Roe, 47 yards to the end zone.
The Blazers finally smashed the goose egg with a 79-yard drive that ended with a 37-yard field goal by Aaron Gray. Valdosta State doubled down on the momentum as the defense bowed up forcing the Wolves to punt from their 38-yard line. The punt never happened. Blazers freshman special teamer Jairus Jones blocked the punt. Barry Jackson recovered the bouncing pigskin and raced into the end zone.
With just four points separating the arch-rivals, Candler and company went back to the playbook. Out of it, they pulled nine plays that covered 71 yards in three-and-a-half minutes. West Georgia found their stride faced with third and 15. Candler found John Hurst in the middle of the zone unattended for a 19-yard first down. On the day, the Wolves finished better than 50% converting third downs (7 for 13).
Candler continued building towards his 265-yard game total with a 27-yard strike to senior wide receiver DeNiko Carter. Carter did the rest with a two-step 5-yard leap over a mash-up of defenders and teammates for the Wolves third score and a 21-10 lead.
Valdosta State responded two drives later with a field goal that turned out to be the Blazers final points of the day.
It wasn’t exactly a complete shut out the Wolves were pitching in the second half but it was close. On three consecutive drives, the Wolves turned the Blazers over on downs including one drive inside the 10.
By the start of the fourth quarter, West Georgia had built a 35-13 lead on a pair of third-quarter rushing touchdowns by Tyler Queen and Devontae Jackson and was looking for more. The more came in the form of Jackson’s third rushing touchdown of the day. The junior from Wheeler High School finished with 170 yards on the ground to accompany the three scores.
Thumper Awards – bestowed on the player or players that brought the fire to ball carriers during the game.
LB Malik Slater – 10 tackles
LB Sharmaine Washington – 9 tackles
LB Malcolm Penny – 9 tackles
LB Cameron Magee – 8 tackles, 7 solo
All photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports