The Blazers (3-0) will be looking to remain undefeated on the young season when the North Greenville Crusaders (2-1, 1-0 Gulf South Conference) come to town.
The game kicks off at 7 p.m. and is part of Family Weekend for VSU.
In their most recent game, the Blazers capped off their nonconference schedule with a 49-25 win over National Athletic Intercollegiate Association foe Keiser.
Head coach Tremaine Jackson compared his team’s nonconference play to a preseason as GSC play begins.
“It was good that we played the nonconference the way we played it,” Jackson said. “It felt like, in the preseason, that we should be at this point right now, but now, you’re entering the toughest conference in Division II in my opinion. We got to be ready to play. They’ll be ready to come to work every day, not any different than what we did, but there’s a different sense of urgency when you’re talking about the Gulf South Conference.”
With the Blazers’ strong start has come a steady rise in expectations. The Blazers are the first team outside the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) Coaches Poll.
Still, Jackson says the team isn’t getting caught up in what the pollsters have to say.
“I’m on the top 25 committee for the AFCA, and I don’t vote for us,” Jackson said. “I think if we do what we’re supposed to do, other people will vote for us. We don’t even talk about those things. We’re just trying to establish the way that we play in 2023, and hopefully, we’ll end up in, at the end of the season, where we want to be.”
The Crusaders have been a team very much predicated by their defense. So far this season, the Crusaders have given up just 14.3 points per game, good for second in the GSC.
“What jumps out is the way that they play defense,” Jackson said. “They play extremely hard. Coach [Jeff] Farrington is the only other defensive-minded head coach in the Gulf South, and you can tell by the way his kids go to work and by the way they play.”
Conversely, the Blazers lead the GSC in scoring offense, averaging 44.3 points per game. The Blazers also lead the GSC in passing offense and total offense.
Junior quarterback Sammy Edwards has quickly made his mark on the young season. Last week, Edwards threw for 479 yards and four touchdowns on 28 for 36 passing.
Offensive coordinator Rick Bowie believes that Edwards’ preparation has been all the difference so far.
“The advantage of Sammy is that he’s still logging a lot of reps,” Bowie said. “I think he’s been a guy who’s been patient. He’s done a really good job trying to pick up the offense mentally, and I think with that, a lot of that comes from the preparation. A lot of people talk about what he does on Saturdays. They don’t really see all the time and effort he takes to really, to spend the time away from this place to really prepare mentally for what what’s asked of him. I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Defensively, the Blazers will be tasked with slowing down the top receiver in the GSC in Dre’ Williams. On the year, Williams has recorded 18 receptions for 300 yards and four touchdowns.
Defensive coordinator Brandon Andersen emphasized the need to not focus in on merely one guy.
“They have all kinds of speed all of the field—running back, receiver—it’s everywhere,” Andersen said. “They do a good job of formations and getting those guys lined up in spots to give them the ball in space. They do a really good job with yards after catch as an entire group. It’s everybody. It’s not just one guy.”
Bowie hopes the team is excited to face off against the Crusaders.
“It’s going to be a good test,” Bowie said. “I think that anytime you face somebody who has been this stingy with points for game, obviously it’s something that we hope the kids get excited about. You come to a place like this to play in games like this against defenses like this.”
Written by Austin Bruce, Co-Editor in Chief. Photo courtesy of Austin Bruce.