Saturday, November 30 no. 20 UWF will face off against no. 1 Valdosta State Blazers in the second round of the Division II playoffs. This game also marks the second time these two squads have played each other this season.

            The first match up was in week 10 of the regular season where UWF (9-2 GSC 7-1) ultimately fell short in a 21-26 shootout with the Blazers (10-0 GSC 8-0). However, now on the second time around the Argos are determined to give Valdosta State their best football game yet.

            “Yes, we are extremely excited about our rematch with Valdosta,” senior offensive lineman Joe Wintrick said. “We have already played them and went toe-to-toe before… we match up great against them and we think we can take them down.”

            Wintrick continued, “As a team we have taken down a number one ranked undefeated team before so we know what it takes and what we need to do.”

            During the 2017 dream season (which led the Argos to the Division II national championship game) UWF took down then undefeated #1 Indiana University of Pennsylvania 27-17 in the semifinals of the playoffs. Wintrick and the rest of the seniors on the team believe they can do it again this year.

On offense, the Argos have put up numerous exceptional performances all season long. Averaging 35 points a game (and beating most of their opponents by a score of 20 points) this offensive unit is looking to roll past the Blazer defense.

            In last week’s win against the Wingate Bulldogs, UWF managed to put up 195 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and average 4.2 yards a carry between running backs Anthony Johnson and Jaden Gardner.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Austin Reed had an impressive day against the Bulldogs as well. Amassing 165 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air, with his longest completion going for 56 yards, Wintrick and the rest of the offense will have to lean on Reed’s big play ability if they want to come out victorious this week.

            Valdosta State runs a traditional 4-3 defensive front and takes pride on being dominant and aggressive at the point of attack. Notorious for their big defensive lineman, Wintrick and the rest of the offensive line are determined to stop them dead in their tracks.

            “We need to be balanced on offense this week,” Wintrick said. “We need to keep our quarterback protected, deliver effective passes and make contested catches. Doing this will lead us to success and where we want to be.”

            Defensively speaking, the West Florida starting 11 have been firing on all cylinders all season long. Allowing, on average, 15 points a game and holding their opponents to 313 yards of total offense. The Argo defense is determined to shut down the Blazer offense.

            “(On the matchup against the Blazers) I wouldn’t exactly call it revenge,” Nickelback Trent Archie said. “But it’s more of a hunger for redemption; we want to show them what we are really capable of.”

             Valdosta State runs a spread offense with star players at virtually every skill position. On average the Blazers accumulate 40 points a game and 523 yards of total offense.

According to Archie, they have multiple players who have the ability to turn something into nothing in the matter of seconds. A player that the defense is taking a second look at is redshirt sophomore running back Jamar Thompkins.

For the 2019 season thus far Thompkins has amassed 872 yards on 110 attempts for 10 touchdowns, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. Archie and the rest of the Argo defense will have to cut his carries down to a minimum if the look to win here this week.

“What worked for us last week was doing what we always do: stop the opposing offense and give our guys a chance to score,” Archie said. “As long as we can do that I know we’ll come out on top.”

Archie continued, “To win we need to make sure that every guy on defense knows and understands his job and that they can execute it to the best of their ability; if we can do that than everything else will fall into place.”

 Now in the second week of post season play Wintrick, Archie and the rest of the West Florida football team know that this game is a must win situation if they wish to make it to the title game.

Knocking off the undefeated defending national champs is a feat that’s easier said than done. However, the West Florida football team believes they have what it takes to upset Valdosta’s perfect season.

“A win here would be one of the biggest wins of our careers,” Wintrick said. “We’ve never beat Valdosta before so to be able to go into their place and beat them in the playoffs would be the win of a lifetime for the team’s seniors.”

Kick off against the Blazers starts at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, Georgia.

Photo courtesy of Morgan Givens.

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