Gulf South

Gulf South Notebook: Conference Leaders Clash

Gulf South Notebook: Conference Leaders Clash

In two important GSC games, Valdosta State takes on West Alabama, while West Florida tries to stay perfect against West Georgia.

Oct 13, 2021 by Kyle Kensing
Gulf South Notebook: Conference Leaders Clash

The top half of the Gulf South Conference used Week 6 to create separation from the bottom half, and the emphatic results make for a Week 7 with high stakes. 

Each of the GSC’s three remaining undefeated teams—Valdosta State, West Alabama and West Florida—cruised to stay perfect. West Georgia remained in the hunt, as well, producing four league games decided by double-digit-point margins. 

Their wins, decided by an average margin of 38.3 per, set up a loaded Saturday guaranteed to shape the home stretch of the conference title race. 

Valdosta State can score; at 45.6 points per game, it ranks No. 6 nationally. The Blazers can defend equally well, tied for best in NCAA Div-II at just six points per game allowed. Nick Moss is coming off an incredible 17-tackle game, good for GSC Defensive Player of the Week and part of a clean sweep of the conference’s individual honors. 

And Week 6 demonstrated opponents have to fear Valdosta State special teams, too. Lio'undre Gallimore taking the opening kickoff 90 yards off a nifty double-reverse set the tone for the Blazers’ most dominant showing of 2021. 

The 55-0 rout of a Delta State team that came in having gone toe-to-toe with West Georgia, West Florida and a Jackson State bunch just outside the FCS Top 25, suggests that Valdosta State remains the team to beat in the GSC. 

Next to challenge the Blazers: No. 10-ranked West Alabama. 

Saturday’s showdown of unbeaten top 10 teams in Livingston is all about balance. Like Valdosta State, West Alabama is playing lockdown defense at 11.5 points allowed per game. 

The Tigers’ stingy defense complements an offense that’s put up almost 46 points per game with an equally proficient combo of run and pass. In its Week 6 blowout of Shorter, West Alabama got 262 passing yards from quarterback Jack McDaniels and 209 rushing yards from five different ball-carriers. 

Demetrius Battle went for 100 yards and two touchdowns, pushing his season total to nine. Valdosta State’s been just as balanced on offense, featuring three ball-carriers with four or more rushing touchdowns; among them is quarterback Ivory Durham, who has also thrown for 11 scores. 

“We’re never satisfied,” Tigers defensive end Undraez Lilly said following the win at Shorter, via UWAathletics.com. “Us having two years to really get with each other, and we really trust each other, so we’re just going to go in with the same mindset we had the other six weeks, and just ball.” 

Two Passing Behemoths 

Keep an eye toward the sky in Saturday’s second top 12 matchup in the GSC: West Florida and West Georgia boast two of the nation’s most prolific passing offenses. 

West Georgia’s Harrison Frost ranks fourth in Div-II with 1,956 yards. West Florida’s Austin Reed is ranked 10th with 18 passing touchdowns—and all nine quarterbacks ahead of him have appeared in six games, to Reed’s five.  

His top target, David Durden, comes in with seven scoring receptions. 

The UWG tandem of Frost and Mechane Slade have been just about as productive with four touchdown connections. 

Passing promises to shape this marquee meeting, which West Georgia needs to win to remain in the conference championship hunt. 

West Florida returns home for its first home game since Sept. 11 boasting three impressive wins on the road. 

The latter two, the reigning national champion Argos’ first of the conference slate, followed much different arcs. West Florida followed its Herculean comeback at Delta State on Oct. 2 by bombarding North Greenville last week. 

West Georgia rebounded from its loss to West Alabama, building a big lead against Mississippi College, then holding off a second-half Choctaws charge with two late scores. Quan Harrison caught a Frost touchdown pass, then a fourth-down stop in MC territory led to a Jace Jordan scoring run. 

The touchdown capped a big day for Harrison, who caught eight passes for 118 yards—including this outstretched, one-handed haul that was one of the most spectacular plays of the season.