Written by Austin Wells, Staff Writer
Coming off a huge home victory against West Alabama, the 6-2 Valdosta State Blazers will now go on the road to face off against the 5-4 Delta State Statesmen.
The win on Saturday marked head coach David Dean’s 76th victory as the Blazers coach, making him tied as the winningest head coach in VSU football history. With the huge milestone and the 55-28 victory that was put up this past weekend, Coach Dean believes that the team could be going into the upcoming game with some extra confidence.
“At the time that we played West Alabama they were probably the hottest team in the conference,” Dean said. “For us to be able to win in the decisive manner that we did really created more confidence and more excitement among the football team, along with knowing that we’re closer to the goal that we have of making the playoffs.”
One of the big performers from the game against West Alabama was senior running back Cedric O’Neal, who amassed 108 yards and 2 touchdowns in the win. Being one of the bigger impact players on the team, Coach Dean believes that O’Neal’s power running has helped him succeed.
“He’s running with a lot of confidence and power underneath his pads,” Dean said. “He’s really starting to lower his shoulder and knock people backwards, when early on he was trying to make a lot of moves. He’s got the moves, but a big arsenal with him is his power and his strength. If we can get him to continue to do that, to lower his shoulder and push folks back, we can be successful.”
Coach Dean’s praise extended to the blocking as well.
“I think the biggest key is how well our offensive line is beginning to gel, and how they’re coming together as a unit and blocking well,” said Dean. “Our wide receivers are doing a great job of blocking down the field as well, which is creating opportunities from him to take maybe 8 or 9 yard rushing plays and turn them into 20 or 25 rushing plays or even touchdown plays.”
With the Blazer defense coming off a great turnover-creating performance including four interceptions, Coach Dean believes them stopping the run will be one of the keys to repeating that performance.
“The big thing is stopping the run,” Dean said. “That’s what we did against West Alabama and it forced them to throw. When we’re forcing teams to go one-dimensional it creates a lot of opportunities to force turnovers and interceptions, so we’re going to have to do the same thing again.”
“Another thing we have to is play for field position,” Dean continued to say. “Maybe if we don’t score every possession that we have, we can at least move the ball and force [Delta State] to have to drive back down the field. We need to play good special teams, make some big plays and then stop the run and force them to become more one-dimensional.”
VSU’s game against Delta State will be this Saturday at 5 p.m. at the Statesmen’s home in Clevelan