Blazers Crush Cumberland

| September 27, 2015

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VALDOSTA – The Valdosta State football team used several big plays and 29 point surge in the second quarter to leave the Bulldogs of Cumberland in the dust and pick up a convincing 56-22 win in Friday night’s home opener at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium in Valdosta, Ga.

The win improved the Blazers to a perfect 3-0 following their last non-conference matchup of the 2015 regular season, while the Bulldogs saw their record drop to 1-3 overall.

With Austin Scott sidelined due to a minor injury, Cedric O’Neal carried a majority of the load in the Blazers’ rushing attack on the night with a total of 95 yards on the ground. In addition, O’Neal racked up two touchdown rushes to pull to within one touchdown of the career rushing touchdown record. Jordan Germany helped bolster the ground game with 45 yards on 9 carries, most of which came in the second half, while Nick Hylton and Eric Scott added 17 and 13 yards each, respectively.

In addition to VSU’s 156 yards on the ground, E.J. Hilliard connected 17 times in 22 attempts to rack up 250 passing yards. A big chunk of that yardage came on one of his four touchdown passes, when he launched a pass from deep in Valdosta State territory to a wide open D’Amonte Ridley, who made the catch in stride and streaked down the right sideline for a 92-yard completion in the second quarter to give VSU a 30-7 advantage. The pass shattered a 22 year old record that was previously set on September 11, 1993, when Blazer legend Chris Hatcher hooked up with Calvin Hatcher in a game against UCF for a 90-yard completion.

The Blazers took an early lead less than five minutes into the contest on an 18-yard touchdown completion to senior Greg Dent, who led the receiving core with six catches on the day along with 81 yards and two touchdowns. Cumberland answered late in the quarter, however, with a one yard touchdown carry by Brandon Byrd for one of his two touchdown carries in the game.

Valdosta State popped the cork on offense in the second quarter, scoring four touchdowns and adding a 37-yard field goal by Andrew Gray midway through the frame. Ridley’s aforementioned record-breaking reception was complemented by fellow receiver Dallas Baldner, who hauled in a 44-yard touchdown reception of his own in the second quarter for his second score of the year.

Besides a hefty number of penalties, the only noticeable downer in the Blazers’ lopsided Saturday win was an ejection to defender Sharmaine Washington after the officials ruled that he led with his helmet on a tackle during the third quarter. Prior to the incident, Washington tallied three tackles. Defensive highlights on the night included Kenny Murphy’s 6.5 tackles (five solo), sacks by four different players, and three tackles by Jaleel Brown, all for loss.

Gulf South Conference play awaits Valdosta State back at Bazemore-Hyder Stadium next Saturday, as the Blazers turn their attention to the No. 8 ranked North Alabama Lions. The league matchup is slated for a 2:00 p.m. start, with live coverage and results available at www.vstateblazers.com.

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