The Valdosta Daily Times
FLORENCE, Ala. —
When the Valdosta State football team takes the field Saturday in the Division II National Championship Game Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium, it won't be the first time head coach David Dean will have coached in the big game.
It won't be his second or third time either.
Dean will coach in his fourth Division II national championship Saturday, his second as a head coach. He enters with a 2-1 record in his previous three appearances, including a 1-0 mark as a head coach after he guided the Blazers to the championship in 2007.
As the Blazers continue their week of preparation for undefeated Winston-Salem State in Florence, Dean will turn to his past experiences to prepare for the hectic and often chaotic scheduling demands of playing in the championship game.
"I can gain on a lot of experience," Dean said. "What we need to do and how we need to handle things and just the approach of our football team and letting them know what will happen. When you don't know what is going to happen and go in blind like we did with Grand Valley (in 2002), everything was just a whirlwind to you. I think that is the one thing that has helped us all along. You learn from that experience."
For Dean himself, he says the championship week is "crazy" and is one of the toughest weeks of the season.
"It's crazy. It is absolutely insane," Dean said. "There are so many things you have to do, as far as preparing your team. Basically, you are doing six days of work in three days because you work Sunday to Friday to get ready for a game. Now you have to cram six days of work into three. And we are really handicapped with the way we have to approach this, because we (had) to leave early Wednesday and we (lost) a whole day of preparation as a staff.
"There are so many demands when you play for a national championship. The papers in North Carolina want to talk to you, ESPN wants to talk to you, the people here want to talk to you, but it is good. I'll take it every year. When you have this kind of recognition and people actually want to talk to you, you know you are actually playing for something."
Valdosta State enters Saturday's game riding a 9-game winning streak, which started with a 58-10 drubbing of Edward Waters Sept. 29. The Blazers' last loss was a 39-28 defeat to West Alabama Sept. 22 in Valdosta.
Following the loss to West Alabama, which was the Blazers' second loss in four weeks, an appearance in the championship game by Valdosta State looked nearly unlikely, and Dean and other Blazer coaches were unofficially placed on the dreaded "hot seat".
"People got down on this coaching staff and down on this football team," Dean said. "And that is understandable. When you are 2-2 and you are supposed to be pretty good, everyone is going to question. Everybody wants us to be undefeated and we want to be undefeated. For us, we knew we had a good football team and we just had to start playing better and fortunately we did. We got a little bit better each week."
But, the Blazers never wavered and stayed focused, winning nine consecutive games, including three straight playoff games in which they trailed by double digits in either the second or third quarter. Now, the Blazers are one win away from claiming the school's third national championship in football.
"When you get into this business, you want to win a national championship, so when you get the opportunity it is very satisfying," Dean said. "I've been there in 2002 and lost. It is probably the sickest feeling you can have but then the joy and elation that I felt in 2004 and 2007, you can't, from a professional standpoint, you just can't explain it."
— Follow me on Twitter at @Ed_Hooper.