The Delta State football team saw their postseason run come to an end in the second round of the Division II playoffs with a 35-31 loss to Valdosta State on Saturday.
After trailing by one possession throughout most of the first half, the Statesmen tied the game in the third quarter when wide receiver Jalen Green went up and over a defensive back for a highlight-reel touchdown.
Valdosta State quarterback Sammy Edwards quickly responded to retake the lead at 28-21 early in the fourth. Three minutes later, Delta State running back Christian Malloy found the end zone to even the scoreboard once again.
The Delta State defense, which had struggled against the Blazers’ high-powered attack for most of the afternoon, stepped up and forced Edwards to fumble on the very next possession deep in Valdosta State territory. Not able to score a touchdown, the Statesmen settled on a short field goal from Nick Herber to take their first lead of the game at 31-28.
Valdosta State kicker Estin Thiele followed suit by tying things back up with 2:42 remaining. With a chance to put the game away, Patrick Shegog and the offense were stopped and forced to punt with under a minute left to play. An atypical punt from Parker Burleson, going just 26 yards, gave the Blazers good field position, which they cashed in on to score the go-ahead touchdown with nine seconds left to play.
“He didn’t hit the best punt, but hey, he’s done it all year and I would do it again,” Delta State head coach Todd Cooley said after the game. “The thing that hurt us was I felt like we got the turnover down there in the red zone and we only got three points out of it.”
It’s the second season in a row that Delta State has advanced to the second round of the playoffs before being bounced by a fellow Gulf South Conference team. In 2022, they lost to West Florida, who they were able to beat in this year’s playoffs, before falling to Valdosta State on Saturday. Earlier in the year, the Statesmen beat the Blazers by a score of 49-25.
“They outplayed us today. I thought our kids fought. I’m really proud of the effort. Tough to get this far,” Cooley continued. “But it’s hard to beat somebody twice.”
Valdosta State (12-1) will go on to play Lenoir-Rhyne (12-1) in the quarterfinals while Delta State (10-2) officially heads into the offseason.
Leading the box score
In a battle of Harlon Hill Trophy nominees at the quarterback position, Edwards got the best of Shegog with 347 yards and two touchdowns on 34 of 46 passing. He added another touchdown and 50 yards with his legs. Shegog didn’t put up bad numbers, though, going for 228 total yards and two scores. Delta State running backs K.J. Smith and Christian Malloy combined for 102 yards and three touchdowns, while Marlon Windham led the team with 11 total tackles.
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