FLORENCE, Ala. -- Michael Terry scored a touchdown with 22
seconds left as Valdosta State beat Northwest Missouri State, 25-20,
Saturday for the Division II championship, the Bearcats' third
consecutive title-game loss.
Terry's 1-yard TD run capped an eight-play, 37-yard drive
sparked by Willie Copeland's four straight completions for 27
yards. Valdosta (13-1) overcame a 14-3 halftime deficit as
Northwest Missouri finished the season 12-2.
"I don't know if words can describe the disappointment that I
feel for these guys," Bearcats coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "They've
done a great job and we've had a great run. They got beat by a very
good football team."
Valdosta State's William Montford intercepted a desperation pass
by Joel Osborn with 16 seconds left to preserve the win, and Blazers
fans swarmed the field, soggy after a cold rainstorm blew through.
"We had a four-game playoff run, and in every game we played we
were either behind at the half or tied," said first-year Valdosta
State coach David Dean. "Our kids never panicked; you never felt
like they were out of the game."
Valdosta made its first trip to the championship since 2004,
when it beat Pittsburg State, 36-31. Northwest Missouri has lost
three straight title games by a total of 12 points.
The loss was a rough end to a tough week for the Bearcats, who
had to fight ice in the Midwest and fog in Alabama just to get to
Florence. Not that the trip was all that easy for the Blazers: They
had a 430-mile bus ride from southern Georgia.
Copeland threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Clay Callaway early in
the third quarter, and the Blazers went up briefly at the start of
the fourth quarter when Zach Parker caught a 14-yard touchdown pass
from running back Ronnye Nelson, a former quarterback.
Northwest Missouri answered less than a minute later with Xavier
Omon's 2-yard touchdown run, but Maurice Leggett blocked the
point-after and Roger King grabbed the ball and ran the length of
The teams swapped punts twice before Valdosta State took over at
the Northwest Missouri 37 with 4:01 remaining after a short punt,
setting up the winning drive.
Valdosta State passed almost twice as often as it ran the ball,
gaining just 34 ground yards to 271 through the air. Northwest
Missouri's play selection was more balanced, but the Bearcats
gained only 148 yards passing and 87 yards rushing.
Valdosta State linebacker Michael Cullen said the defensive
front never played better.
"All across the line they just got after it and just manhandled
them up front, which made it easier for everybody else," he said.
The Blazers held Omon, the nation's leading rusher, to 63 yards
on 27 carries for Northwest Missouri, and Osborn was 18-of-28
passing for 148 yards with a pair of interceptions. Omon ran for
292 yards in the semifinals against Grand Valley State.
"(Valdosta) stacked the box," Omon said. "They had a great
game plan going in. It's a big disappointment."
Copeland completed 29 of 44 passes for 257 yards and just one
interception despite getting sacked four times.
Northwest Missouri built its early lead on a dazzling 31-yard
interception return by Aldwin Foster-Rettig, who grabbed the ball off
the fingertips of Valdosta State's Cedric Jones, and a 3-yard
touchdown pass from Osborn to Mike Peterson.
Valdosta State's Zac Williams' kicked a 35-yard field goal, but
Tommy Frevert was wide left from 40 yards for Northwest Missouri.
Terry was Valdosta State's leading rusher with only 36 yards on