By Ed Hooper/The Valdosta Daily Times
FLORENCE, Ala. —
The Valdosta State students and fans couldn’t help themselves. With the time winding off the clock in Saturday’s Division II national championship game, they slowly started to creep over the fence and onto the field.
When the final horn buzzed, Blazer Nation stormed a field that is the regular season home to one of the school’s biggest rivals. For the third time in nine years, the Blazers football team had won the national championship.
Valdosta State (12-2) used a bevy of Winston-Salem State (14-1) turnovers, along with an opening kickoff return for a touchdown and an impressive performance from a true freshman running back to blow out the Winston-Salem State Rams 35-7 in the championship game.
“It is about the kids,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “You get in this game with kids and watch them grow and develop and to lead them to be national champions, and for these guys to come out national champions, that means more to me than winning two, three or four myself.”
With the win, the Blazers have now won three national championships since 2004 when they beat Pittsburg State. It was also Valdosta State’s seventh all-time national championship and third in the past 19 months — men’s tennis won the championship in May 2011 and women’s softball in May 2012.
Despite being held to just 316 yards of total offense on the day, the Blazers made sure Saturday’s championship game was never close, largely because one of the most impressive defensive performances of the year.
The Blazers defense returned to the form of the Black Swarm of years past, forcing six Rams turnovers and four turnovers on downs in the win.
For full details, see Sunday's edition of the Times-Enterprise.