The Valdosta Daily Times
Finally, the Valdosta State football team doesn’t have to hear about losing to rival Delta State any more. For the next year, the Blazers have the bragging rights.
The Blazers (6-2, 3-1 GSC) outlasted the Statesmen (3-4, 1-2 GSC) in a wild, back-and-forth shootout Saturday afternoon at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium.
After blowing a 17-point third quarter lead, the Blazers scored 21 consecutive second half points and made four straight defensive stops to earn a 59-41 win over the Statesmen in VSU’s Homecoming game.
The win ended the Blazers' six-game losing streak to the Statesmen, which dated back to the 2005 season.
“We hear about it all the time, ‘You can’t beat Delta,’” said Valdosta State head coach David Dean, who was doused with a Gatorade bucket in celebration. “This win goes out to the kids that are in that locker room and sold out to win that ball game, and weren’t going to be denied. They were not going to be denied of winning that football game tonight.”
It was another typical football game in the rivalry between the Blazers and the Statesmen. The Gulf South Conference rivals combined for 100 points, 1,079 total yards, 14 touchdowns and nine injury timeouts on the afternoon.
Valdosta State’s offense racked up 624 total yards, the third-most in school history, and scored on nine of its 15 offensive possessions against a Delta State defense that ranked 20th nationally.
“It was just an awesome job,” quarterback Cayden Cochran said. “Defensively, we had some trouble, but they bowed their neck time and time again and gave us a chance to win. Offensive line and wide receivers, it is just the story every week.”
Cochran connected with wide receiver Seantavious Jones nine times for 210 yards and four touchdowns in Saturday’s win. Jones’ 210 yards receiving ranked the third-most in school history.
“We practiced real hard, we connected in practice and before each game I always tell him, ‘Let’s do it,’” Jones said. “We did it.”
The duo connected on the third offensive play of the game, when Cochran hit Jones down the Blazers’ sideline for a 74-yard touchdown pass to give Valdosta State a 7-0 lead.
They connected again early in the second quarter on a 14-yard slant route to cap off a five-play, 44-yard drive to give the Blazers a 24-14 lead.
On the Blazers’ next possession, Cochran rolled left and found Jones wide open in the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown to extend the Blazers’ lead to 31-14.
“All week long, we had a great practice,” Cochran said. “(Seantavious and I) had just been talking about their corners and the mismatches we would have if they didn’t have anybody over there to put two guys on him. It ended up working out. It was a great feeling to hook up with him that much. He is a great player.”
After Delta State erased a 17-point deficit in the third quarter to grab a 41-38 lead, Cochran and Jones connected for their fourth touchdown of the afternoon, this time on a 33-yard strike that put the Blazers back in front 45-41.
From there, the Blazers added a pair of rushing touchdowns from freshman running back Cedric O’Neal, who finished with a career-high 160 yards, and used four straight defensive stops to earn the win.
“The O-line made great blocks and the wide receivers made great catches,” O’Neal said. “They opened up the running game for me.”
Delta State’s offense was explosive, too. The Statesmen finished with a season-high 455 yards, including 340 through the air. Quarterback Trevor Wooden finished with 340 yards passing, 70 yards rushing and five total scores.
On their first offensive play, the Statesmen used a 75-yard pass from Wooden to Patrick Bethley to even the score at 7-7.
After a missed field goal on their next possession, Wooden and Bethley connected on a 59-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-10 lead. The drive followed a 49-yard field goal by VSU’s Daniel Andersen, which had given VSU a 10-7 lead.
The Blazers regained the lead with a 58-yard touchdown pass from Cochran to Regginald Lewis, which capped off a five-play drive. The TD connection made the score 17-14, Blazers.
Valdosta State extended its lead with the back-to-back touchdown connections from Cochran to Jones.
Trailing 31-14, the Statesmen used a 1-yard touchdown run by Brant Botill to cap off a 9-play, 75-yard drive in the final minutes of the first half. Tevin Davis blocked the extra point, and Valdosta State held a 31-20 lead at the half.
In the second half, Cochran extended the Blazers’ lead back to 17 points with a 1-yard quarterback sneak to give the Blazers a 38-20 lead early in the third quarter.
Delta State quickly came thundering back, though.
The Statesmen used a 70-yard touchdown pass from Wooden to Erik Clayton, who was tackled into the end zone by a VSU defender, making the score 38-26. Isaiah Greshman intercepted the Statesmen’s two-point conversion attempt.
On the Blazers’ following possession, Cochran was intercepted, setting up an 8-yard touchdown run by Wooden, which cut VSU’s lead to just five, 38-33.
Delta State took the lead on its following possession, when Wooden connected with Lavon Downs on a 32-yard touchdown pass. Downs then caught the two-point conversion from Wooden to make the score 41-38.
VSU responded on its following possession behind Cochran and Jones’ fourth touchdown connection of the day.
“It was huge,” Dean said of the touchdown. “I thought it made a statement to our defense that offensively we are not going to fold. We have your back.”
Cochran finished the day 25 of 36 for a season-high 412 yards and a career-high five passing touchdowns. Regginald Lewis finished with seven catches for 95 yards and his first quarter TD. Gerald Ford was held without a touchdown, but finished with six catches for 93 yards.
INJURY NOTE: There were nine total injuries in the game, including four for Valdosta State. None were as serious as wide receiver Quin Roberson, who was carted off the field in the third quarter following a hit on a punt return. Following the game, Dean said Roberson had motion in all his limbs and was speaking to coaches on the field. He underwent further evaluation at South Georgia Medical Center.
Offensive lineman Edmund Kugbila was carted off the field with a knee injury in the first quarter. He did not return. Defensive linemen Andrew Lauritsen and Lawrence Virgil were also helped off the field. Virgil returned to the game; Lauritsen did not.