There will be a new national champion in DII football this season. The defending champion Valdosta State Blazers were upset by West Florida in the final seconds of their second-round game on Saturday.
With the victory, West Florida ended the longest current winning streak in DII football and the Blazers undefeated season. Here’s how it went down.
THE DII FOOTBALL CHAMPIONSHIP: Updates, bracket, and schedule for the full tournament
West Florida survived a big Valdosta State comeback
The Argos certainly set the tone for the game early. West Florida scored first on a field goal from Austin Williams, but Valdosta State quickly answered with a long touchdown pass from Rogan Wells to Lio’undre Gallimore. But then the Argos took over and reeled off three-straight touchdowns to build a 24-7 lead early in the second half.
The Blazers came storming back behind a 21-point fourth quarter to take the late 35-31 lead with just 2:12 left on the clock. Redshirt-freshman quarterback Austin Reed led a memorable 75-yard drive that allowed Anthony Johnson to punch it in from one-yard out with just six seconds remaining. Reed found Tate Lehtio for four-straight passes for 54 yards to get into Blazer territory and spark the Johnson score.
West Florida’s Austin Reed is one to watch
Reed may be a freshman on paper, but he’s certainly come of age the past few weeks. Though this wasn’t his best game of the season, how he handled the final game-winning drive should put him on every team’s radar.
Let’s not forget this was a rematch between the two Gulf South Conference foes. In that game on Nov. 9, Valdosta State jumped out to a 20-0 lead at the half. While this stout Argos defense did its job clamping down on the Blazers’ offense, Reed didn’t waiver, leading the offense to 14 points in the third quarter and giving Valdosta State a ball game.
The Argos lost that game, but Reed didn’t let this one slip away. He completed five passes on the final 11-play drive. Perhaps the biggest play was a pass interference on Valdosta State when Reed was looking to his favorite target of late, Quinten Randolph. That put the ball on the nine and Reed then found Lehtio for eight yards to set up Johnson for the one-yard game-winning touchdown run.
West Florida ends the many Blazers’ streaks
Valdosta State was one of six undefeated teams entering the second round of the 2019 DII football championship. While the Argos ended the Blazers’ perfect season, they also ended two other big streaks.
UNDEFEATED TRACKER: Follow the remaining undefeated teams
The Blazers had the longest current winning streak in DII football, having not lost since 2017. Valdosta State reeled off 25-straight victories before the loss at home on Saturday. That loss at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium also ended another streak for the Blazers who had won 13-straight at home. That was second amongst current home winning streaks to Lenoir-Rhyne, which has now won 15-straight games in Hickory, N.C.
For West Florida, it is just its third-straight win. The Argos are hoping that streak reaches at least six and extends to McKinney, Texas for the national championship game on Dec. 21.