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The losing team controlled long stretches of each semifinal game, but ultimately it was the big play ability of Valdosta State and Ferris State that led to both teams reaching the national championship game.

VSU scored on an 84-yard run, a 100-yard interception return and blocked a punt for a safety in a 30-24 victory. This helped the Blazers overcome 175 rushing yards by Notre Dame College freshman sensation Jaleel McLaughlin and a great effort by the Falcon defense.

For Ferris State, a 55-yard touchdown pass and late interception to seal it overcame the 91 offensive plays and 25 first downs generated by the MSU offense. FSU won the game by the final score of 42-25.

We are now set for what should be a tremendous national championship in an unfamiliar venue. The game will be played at the McKinney ISD Stadium in McKinney, TX. McKinney was awarded the game earlier this fall after Sporting Park in Kansas City reneged on its agreement to hold the game.

National Championship Game
Ferris State (15-0) vs Valdosta State (13-0)
5:00 EST Saturday on ESPNU

Valdosta State Overview

This will be VSU’s fifth national championship game appearance and the Blazers will be seeking a fourth national championship. VSU was runner up in 2002 and won titles in 2004, 2007 and 2012. The Blazers are coached by Kerwin Bell, who is in his third season at VSU. Bell was a star quarterback for the University of Florida in the mid-80’s and had a successful nine year run as head coach at Jacksonville University before coming to VSU.

Valdosta State Statistics (per game averages):

Total Offense: 526

Rush Offense: 273

Pass Offense: 253

Points Per Game: 52.6

Total Defense: 337

Rush Defense: 124

Pass Defense: 213

Points Allowed: 20.7

Key Players: QB Rogan Wells (2726 passing yards, 693 rushing yards, 44 total TDs), RB Jamar Thompkins (1257 rush yards, 9 TDs), WR Lio’undre Gallimore (789 receiving yards, 7 TDs), entire offensive line

Ferris State Overview

This is the school’s first national championship appearance. FSU had previously reached the semifinals in 1995 and 2016. The Bulldogs are led by Tony Annese, who is in his seventh season at the school. Annese has a long track record of success, winning three state championships at the high school level and two junior college national championships at Grand Rapids Community College prior to coming to FSU.

Ferris State Statistics (per game averages):

Total Offense: 526

Rush Offense: 273

Pass Offense: 253

Points Per Game: 52.6

Total Defense: 337

Rush Defense: 124

Pass Defense: 213

Points Allowed: 20.7

Key Players: QB Jayru Campbell (2832 passing yards, 1338 rushing yards, 46 total TDs), WR Sy Barnett (968 receiving yards, 9 TDs), DB Delon Stephenson (78 tackles, 7 INTs), DE Austin Edwards (89 tackles, 7.5 sacks)

Game Discussion and Prediction

These are two very talented teams that will be on the field on Saturday. As I have mentioned before, Campbell is a former four-star Michigan State recruit and he is very dangerous both throwing and running the football. The FSU offense likes to test the perimeter of the defense both via run and pass to get athletes in space and let them make plays. The Blazer defense will have to tackle well and force FSU into long drives. The Bulldogs have tended to self-destruct via penalties and mistakes at times this season when the big play hasn’t been there.

VSU has been a historically great D2 offense this year. Until last week the Blazers had scored at least 44 points in every game and they have shown an ability to run it or throw it with ease. Quarterbacks Rogan Wells and Ivory Durham are both dual threats and they are surrounded by speed and talent at the skill positions. But the real MVP for this team in my opinion is an offensive line that features four all-conference players. It will be very interesting to see how the FSU defensive front holds up against this unit.

I think this will be a great football game that comes down to the final possession. Both teams will score points and it will probably be a mistake or turnover that tips the game in favor of one team or the other. I said before the playoffs that the Blazers were the favorite so that’s what I’m going to stick with. Valdosta State 34 Ferris State 31

Harlon Hill Trophy

The Harlon Hill winner will be announced on Friday afternoon. Here is a breakdown of the nine finalists followed by my thoughts on who should win the award:

Jaleel McLaughlin FR RB Notre Dame College: 2421 rushing yards, 18 TDs, 6.4 yards per carry

Chance Stewart SR QB Hillsdale: 3588 passing yards, 31 total touchdowns

Amir Hall SR QB Bowie State: 4152 passing yards, 445 rushing yards, 38 total touchdowns

Rogan Wells SO QB Valdosta State: 2726 passing yards, 693 rushing yards, 44 total touchdowns

Jayru Campbell JR QB Ferris State: 2832 passing yards, 1338 rushing yards, 47 total touchdowns

Ka’Ronce Higgins SR WR Southern Arkansas: 1,150 receiving yards, 9 touchdowns

Braxton Marstall SR QB Emporia State: 3,049 passing yards, 423 rushing yards, 38 total touchdowns

Markus Jones SR DE Angelo State: 17.5 sacks, 36.5 tackles for loss

Gabe Watson JR RB Sioux Falls: 1957 rushing yards, 26 TDs, 7.3 yards per carry

Campbell, Hall, Wells and Watson are the four that stand out to me. However, Campbell’s numbers are too impressive to ignore, and I would favor him over the other top candidates.

Contact

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