West Alabama second in first NCAA Region Two poll

The initial NCAA Division II Super Region Two Poll has been released and West Alabama holds the No. 2 spot. The Tigers are 6-1 in Division II play.

Wingate holds the top spot with a 7-0 record against Division II opponents. The top seven region finishers after the regular season earn a berth in the 2017 NCAA Football Playoffs. The top seed will earn a first-round bye.

Virginia State (6-0) is third in the region, followed by Bowie State (7-1), Delta State (6-2), West Georgia (6-2) and Catawba (5-2) in the top seven. Eight through 10 is Albany State (5-3), Miles (5-2) and Virginia Union (5-2).

The NCAA Division II Playoffs begin Nov. 18.

UWA overcomes deficit for win over nationally-ranked West Georgia

Tra Fletcher scores on a 34-yard pass from Harry Satterwhite with 3:22 to play Saturday night, pushing UWA over West Georgia.

LIVINGSTON, Ala. – Harry Satterwhite and Tra Fletcherconnected on a 34-yard pass and run with 3:22 left to play, completing a 34-31 come-from-behind West Alabama victory over West Georgia in a battle of two nationally-ranked teams Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

Ranked 15th in the D2Football poll and 23rd in the AFCA poll, West Alabama extended its winning streak to five games by beating a ranked opponent for the third time in four weeks. The Tigers are 6-1 overall and 5-0 in Gulf South Conference play.

West Georgia, ranked 17th and 22nd, had its winning streak snapped at three games, dropping to 5-2 and 2-2. Both Wolves losses have come on the road to nationally-ranked opponents.

When Fletcher weaved his way into the north endzone with the game winner, it marked the only time West Alabama led in the game. West Georgia led 28-17 at the half, but the Tiger defense limited the GSC’s top total offensive team to just three points in the final 30 minutes.

“That was my first game-winner,” Fletcher said. “They play wasn’t intended for me, but Harry was scrambling so I came back to the ball and just made a play.”

West Alabama was forced to kick off from its own 20-yard line following Fletcher’s game-winner due to an excessive celebration penalty. The Wolves drove to the UWA 23 before Jordan Jones blocked a 31-yard field goal attempts Trey Wiggins, but UWG was called for delay of game and handed another play to either tie or take the lead.

The Wolves opted to go for it on fourth-and-11 from the Tiger 28 and Candler’s pass was picked off by Tiger linebacker Khalia Hackett.

With three West Georgia timeouts left, the Tigers were forced to punt, giving West Georgia one last shot from its own 16 with three seconds to play. Willie Candler completed a 28-yard pass to Shannon Smith as time expired.

“We executed and did just enough to win, but we also did just enough to lose,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “I am proud of our defense, especially in the second half to hold a great West Georgia offense to just three points.

“We challenged our players about our energy and intensity at the half,” Gilliland said. “It was an emotional game with a lot of ups and downs.”

UWA’s 34 points is the most given up by West Georgia this season. The Wolves came into the game as the top scoring defense in the GSC, allowing just 14.2 points per game.

Satterwhite celebrated his 22nd birthday by completing 29-of-42 for 308 yards and three touchdowns. He was intercepted once. Candler was 13-of-21 for 212 yards, one TD and one interception.

“We had some mistakes, but that’s a really good football team,” Satterwhite said. “We just try to control what we can control and our playmakers made plays at the end. If we can get the ball to those guys in space, they can make plays.”

In addition to the game-winner to Fletcher, Satterwhite also hooked up with Corey Davis for scoring tosses of 26 and 16 yards. Lakendric Thomas scored on a 3-yard run, while Colin Douglas made field goals from 27 and 36 yards to complete UWA scoring.

“West Georgia has some great defensive backs,” Davis said. “It was a rollercoaster ride, but we kept the faith, played as a team and came out with the victory.”

The game began with a penalty and points for West Georgia. The Wolves were penalized 15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct during warmups, but Devontae Jackson returned the opening kickoff from his own endzone to spot the Wolves a 7-0 lead.

Jackson scored again in the first quarter on a 77-yard run and Candler connected with Mikell Lands-Davis to give West Georgia a 21-14 lead after one quarter, marking the most points UWA had allowed in the first period this season.

Candler used his legs to score again before the half on a 6-yard run with 8:25 to play in the second quarter. It would be the final time West Georgia visited the endzone. UWA outscored the Wolves 17-3 in the final 30 minutes.

Jackson led all rushers with 169 yards on 22 carries. He also caught three passes for 59 yards and returned four kickoffs for 145 yards while amassing 373 all-purpose yards.

“Jackson is a really good back. Arm tackling won’t work on him,” Tiger linebacker Terry Samuel said. “We just had to bow our back and be relentless. We knew we had to stop them.”

Davis led all receivers with eight catches for 79 yards, followed by Donta Armstrong with six for 69 yards and Qua Boydwith five for 69 yards. Thomas was the leading rusher for UWA with 62 yards on 15 carries.

Taderion Myhand piled up 12 tackles, nine solo, for West Alabama to lead all tacklers in the game. Samuel added 10 more. Myhand had 1.5 tackles for loss and Samuels two more. Terrence Jones and Michael Williams each recorded a sack for the Tigers. Tevin Madison recovered a fumble.

Cameron Magee had 10 tackles for the Wolves, followed by Korie Rogers with nine. UWG managed just three tackles for loss, with two of those coming on sacks by Deondre Gardenhire and Chad Price.

West Alabama remains in GSC play next week, traveling to Florida Tech (4-3) for a 1 p.m. CDT kickoff in Melbourne. West Georgia stays on the road to face Mississippi College (0-7).

Pride, Headley earn preseason All-Conference team bids

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – TeMia Pride and Aleah Headley have been named to the 2017 Gulf South Conference Women’s Soccer Preseason All-GSC Team in an announcement on Thursday. West Alabama is ranked fifth in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Pride, a forward from Huntsville, Alabama, returns to the Tiger attack after a standout freshman campaign in 2016. The Tigers’ striker led the team in goals (13), game-winners (4), points (28), shots (71) and shots-on-goal (42). Pride’s offensive stats also rank in the top five across the GSC, earning the rising sophomore a First Team All-Conference nod.
Headley, a midfielder hailing from Tilbury, England, was also awarded a spot on the preseason All-GSC squad after leading UWA in the middle third of the pitch a season ago. Headley transitioned from defender to attacker, dispossessing opponents and setting up the UWA attack.
Defending league champion West Florida was picked to repeat their success in 2017, receiving 12-of-14 first-place votes and 168 points. Lee grabbed the remaining two first-place votes, following the Argos with 155 points.
Mississippi College (141) and North Alabama (129) sit third and fourth in the poll, while West Alabama (121) rounds out the top five.
Incoming Tiger defenders Brianna Forrest and Lexi Pund were selected as two of the GSC’s Top Newcomers for the 2017 season. Forrest, a Canadian transplant, is a two-time Most Valuable Player and Student Athlete of the Year at St. Stephens’ Catholic in Bowmanville, Ontario.
Pund, a native of Tupelo, Mississippi, took home First Team All-Area and Offensive MVP honors in 2016, netting 26 goals for Tupelo High School.
West Alabama opens the 2017 season under the lights at Tiger Stadium, facing off against South Atlantic Conference co-champions Tusculum College on Sept. 1, at 7 p.m.

UWA football six days into camp with no surprises

LIVINGSTON, Ala. – West Alabama head football coach Brett Gilliland has seen his team through six practices since preseason camp began – two in helmets, two in shells and two in full gear – and he hasn’t changed his mind.
With 28 seniors and 19 returning starters on offense (9), defense (7) and special teams (3), the former Tiger quarterback is expecting great things from this 2017 team, his fourth at West Alabama.
“We are pretty close to where we thought we would be. We didn’t have a lot of unanswered questions coming into fall camp,” Gilliland said. “Obviously, there are concerns in certain spots, as there always are, but a lot of our guys have put a lot of offseason work in and it shows.
“It shows with their effort at practice, and it shows when they are not passing out with the tempo we practice with,” Gilliland said. “We like to exert them in practice, to push them. They are responding well to that.”
Any remaining questions will begin to be answered when the Tigers conduct the first game-type scrimmage of camp Saturday morning at Tiger Stadium. Gilliland and his staff will put the Tigers through their paces in full gear Thursday and in shells Friday prior to the scrimmage.
“The scrimmage will be the first true test, especially for some of the new guys, and it will be the first big test for the quarterbacks,” Gilliland said. “Instead of getting four-play sets, you are going to get a drive. Let’s see which quarterback drives the team and moves the offense.”
Junior Harry Satterwhite, who has played in 13 games and passed for more than 1,300 yards over the last two seasons, emerged from spring as the leader at quarterback, but is being challenged by Gabe Tiller, along with newcomers Austin Bray and Jacob Murphree.
“Will know a lot more after Saturday as far as who goes where and can begin moving forward some on game prep,” Gilliland said. “We have a good football team. We still have things to iron out, but we like the athleticism that we have.”
One thing Tiger fans might notice is a more athletic, faster defense. Gilliland said he liked the work of defensive backs Tevin Madison and Khalia Hackett, along with defensive linemen Michael Williams, Terrence Jones and Ashton Derico. Madison transferred from Texas Tech and Hackett from Arkansas.
Saturday’s scrimmage is open to the public with just a couple of caveats.
“The scrimmage is open, unless of course you are an opponent,” Gilliland said. “We also won’t accept any videoing during the scrimmage, so if you come with a video camera, we will ask you put it up. (Strength coach) Joe Boyd will be on video patrol.”
The team takes the field at 10:15 a.m. and scrimmaging should begin around 10:30.

Gilliland expects big things from Tigers

LIVINGSTON, Ala. – Brett Gilliland is beginning his fourth season as head coach at his alma mater, and by his own measure, believes that the time is now for his West Alabama Tigers to contend for a Gulf South Conference title and an NCAA postseason spot.
“This team will be the best one we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Gilliland said. “It’s the deepest we have had throughout, but especially on the defensive line and at the skill positions on offense.
“I believe fair expectations for this team are to go after a conference title and make a playoff run,” Gilliland said. “That’s what we expect as coaches, and what our guys expect to do as players.”
West Alabama returns nine starters on offense and eight on defense, along with the long snapper, punter and place kicker. Four Tigers, receiver Donta Armstrong, defensive end Darius Ellis, linebacker Terry Samuel and kicker Jordan Bennett, were selected as preseason All-conference players.
GSC coaches picked the Tigers to finish no better than fifth, but Gilliland’s zeal for his 2017 team isn’t diminished following the preseason vote.
“I am excited because we have so many guys back. Have a lot of talented returning players who have played a lot of football for us,” Gilliland said. “The Gulf South Conference is the toughest conference in Division II and preseason rankings are difficult because there are several teams that could win it every year.”
One of two positions where a starter doesn’t return on offense is quarterback. Austin Grammer graduated after passing for 2,940 yards and 21 touchdowns last season with a passer rating of 136.97. Harry Satterwhite emerged from spring as the leader at the position, but will be challenged by Gabe Tiller, along with newcomers Austin Bray and Jacob Murphree.
“The biggest competition throughout fall camp will be at quarterback. Harry came out of spring as the top guy,” Gilliland said. “We are excited to see them all in action.”
Over the last two seasons, Satterwhite has played in 13 games, passing for 1,364 yards and 16 touchdowns, completing 56 percent of his throws.
A pair of all-conference receivers return in Armstrong and Corey Davis. Armstrong was an All-America choice after catching 91 passes last season and David lead the team with eight TD receptions despite missing games with nagging injuries. Seniors Tra Fletcher, Broc Malcom and Barnard McGhee make the receiver spot one of the deepest on the team.
Lakendric Thomas and Rashaad Lee, the top two rushers in 2016 are both back, plus junior college transfer Tevin Moore and four starters return on the offensive line. Tennessee transfer Dontavius Blair will help solidify a group that returns all-conference center Call Dyer.
“Along with receivers, the defensive front is one of our strongest spots with Michael Williams and all those guys,” Gilliland said. “Terrance Jones came in from Itawamba Community College, plus Jordan Jones is back healthy and Darius Ellis is back after leading the league last year in tackles for loss.”
Ellis registered 20.5 tackles for loss and 10 sacks on the way to All-GSC and All-NCAA South Region honors last year. Williams is a seasoned veteran who is very valuable as a run stopper.
Devante Davis, Ladarius Johnson and Samuels have all logged considerable playing time at linebacker. Arkansas transfer Khalia Hackett will begin drills at safety, but could also get a look at linebacker as well.
“We feel good about their knowledge of what (defensive coordinator Steve) Coach Sisa is trying to do,” Gilliland said.
The secondary will be without all-conference cornerback Dee Virgin, who is in NFL training camp with the Houston Texans, but Texas Tech transfer Tevin Madison steps in with returners Se’Quan Steele, Greg Bell and Jamal Blackwell.
Montell Dent is back from injury at safety and the addition of Hackett to veterans Ken Hibbler and Tavarius Hutchinson at safety has Gilliland saying the secondary competition “will make for a fun fall camp.”
As for special teams, long snapper Jared Adair, punters Zach Gaines and Reed James, along with Bennett, all return. Bennett was all-conference after hitting 10-of-14 field goals last year and is a preseason pick in 2017.
West Alabama opens the season with a pair of Thursday night games on the road, first at Lenoir Rhyne on Aug. 31 and then at FSC member Samford on Sept. 7. The Tigers home opener is Sept. 16 against Mississippi College to open GSC play.

UWA’s Virgin signs with Houston Texans

West Alabama cornerback Dee Virgin has signed a free agent deal with the Houston Texans.

From Donalsonville, Georgia, Virgin recorded 43 tackles, intercepted three passed, broke up seven and had 5.5 tackles for loss as a senior. He was tabbed by GSC coaches as an All-Gulf South Conference performer.

Prior to playing his senior season at UWA, Virgin was a two-time All-Southern Conference performer at Tennessee Chattanooga.

Virgin’s free agent deal gives West Alabama six former players who will be reporting to National Football League camps, three of them defensive backs. Also reporting to NFL camps are New England cornerback Malcolm Butler, Baltimore defensive back Otha Foster, Miami linebacker Deon Lacey, Kansas City receiver Tyreek Hill and Oakland receiver Seth Roberts.

North Greenville sneaks by UWA 24-23

UWATIGERVILLE, S.C. – Ashton Heard ran for 179 yards, but it was his backup Tracy Scott who drove the dagger into West Alabama’s heart, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run with 1:40 left to hand North Greenville to a 24-23 college football victory over West Alabama Thursday night at Younts Stadium.

The game was the season opener for both teams. West Alabama (0-1) remains on the road Sept. 10 at FCS member Stephen F. Austin. North Greenville (1-0) plays at Lenior-Rhyne the same day.

“This was a tough one. We had opportunities to win,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “In the end, they made the plays and we didn’t.

“We got rolling too late and had them on their heels in the third quarter,” Gilliland said. “We knew they had a veteran offensive line and a great running back, but we put our defense on the field too much.”

North Greenville accumulated 314 yards rushing in the game, 280 in the second half, on the way to 444 yards total offense. West Alabama’s offense rang up 423 total yards, but according to Tiger players and coaches waited too long to get going.

“We started too slow on offense,” UWA quarterback Austin Grammer said. “We have to learn to finish.”

Grammer completed 29-of-42 passes for 266 yards and two touchdowns. He was not intercepted. The senior from Tuscaloosa also ran for 32 yards and a touchdown despite getting sacked three times for minus 24 yards.

Grammer’s scoring passes were 4 yards to Donta Armstrong and 13 yards to Tray Fletcher. Armstrong finished with 11 receptions for 137 yards. Tight end Christian Patterson caught six passes for 46 yards.

“Donta took advantage of some guys getting injured early and showed why he was an All-American in junior college,” Grammer said. “I asked him why he doesn’t practice that way every day. The lights bring the great out in some people.”

“All that starts with the offensive line giving Austin time,” Armstrong said. “He throws a good ball and I was able to take advantage of my ball skills.”

Freshman kicker Matt Gravely opened the scoring for North Greenville with a 47-yard field goal on the Crusaders first drive and NGU extended its lead to 10-0 on a 35-yard run by Heard with 8:06 left in the first period.

West Alabama cut the lead to 10-7 when Grammer rambled 12 yards for a touchdown with 4:02 left in the first quarter. The touchdown was set up by a Tavarious Hutchinson fumble recovery at the NGU 28.

Mike Hunter completed a 22-yard scoring pass to Javon Smith with 6:49 left in the second quarter to give the Crusaders a 17-7 lead at the half.

“We left it all on the field, but you have to give it up to North Greenville,” Hutchinson said. “We missed too many tackles and that was the big thing.”

The Tigers scored first in the third quarter when Grammer found Armstrong on a 4-yard scoring pass at the 9:25 mark. Armstrong and Grammer connected on four passes for 56 yards on the drive. The PAT was blocked and North Greenville led 17-13.

Reed James pulled West Alabama to within one at 17-16, connecting on a 37-yard field goal with 5:58 left in the third period.

Grammer hooked up with Fletcher with 7:32 left to play. The Tigers bid for a two-point conversion was spoiled by a pre-snap penalty, so James’ kick made it 23-17 West Alabama.

Scott’s 10-yard scoring run capped a 10-play, 65-yard run for North Greenville as time melted away. West Alabama ran eight plays in the final 1:40, but couldn’t advance past the NGU 47-yard line.

Hunter completed 9-of-20 passes for 96 yards and ran for 14 more before giving way to true freshman Collin Sneed, who directed the Crusaders winning drive. Sned finished with 96 yards rushing on just four carries.

Se’Quan Steele, Jordan Jones and Hutchinson had six tackles each to lead West Alabama. Steele forced a fumble. Darius Ellis had UWA’s only sack.

Sam Houtson became North Greenville’s all-time leading tackler with a game-high 14, including three for loss. Tony Godbolt had 10 tackles for the Crusaders, who had seven tackles for loss in the game.

Dezmon Huntley named GSC Freshman of the Week

UWA's Dezmon Huntley runs in the open field against Cumberland.

UWA’s Dezmon Huntley runs in the open field against Cumberland.

West Alabama quarterback Dezmon Huntley has been named the Gulf South Conference Freshman of the Week for his performance in the Tigers’ 34-8 victory over Cumberland.

Huntley sparked UWA’s offense in the second half after taking over for injured starter Trent Thompson. The Mableton, Ga. native responded by leading UWA to 27 unanswered points.

Huntley ran for a game-high 85 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. He also completed all four passes he threw for 100 yards and two more scores.

West Alabama plays its first road game of the season Saturday at Miles College. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m.

UWA trounces Stillman in season opener

Trent Thompson runs in the open field against Stillman College.

Trent Thompson runs in the open field against Stillman College.

LIVINGSTON — West Alabama rolled up 496 yards of total offense while limiting Stillman to just 134 on the way to a 52-9 season-opening victory in Tiger Bowl II Saturday night at Tiger Stadium.

The win improves UWA to 1-0 with a quick turnaround for a Thursday game against Cumberland at home. Stillman is 0-1.

“I was pleased with our effort,” UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. “Any time you put 52 points up and run 83 plays on offense it’s a pretty good night.

“Our defense handled them. They came out to make a statement and did,” Gilliland said. “Jared Washington, Michael Williams, Jherron Jones and all those guys up front played very well and allowed our linebackers to roam and make plays.”

Stillman led 7-3 after the first quarter before West Alabama outscored SC 42-2 over the next 30 minutes. West Alabama limited Stillman to minus 2 yards rushing in the first half and just 48 for the game.

West Alabama’s opened the scoring when Garrett Mattix kicked the first field goal of his UWA career from 21 yards out with 9:16 left in the first quarter. Stillman answered quickly on a 66-yard TD pass from Li’Jon Cordier to Malik Williams giving SC a 7-3 lead with 7:04 left in first quarter.

“We had a blown coverage on that play,” UWA linebacker Quentin Harton said. “We changed the coverage and one of the guys didn’t get the change, but our goal is to always stop the run first and get at least three turnovers.”

West Alabama collected four Stillman turnovers, with Darius Ellis, Tyler Sims and Chris David recovering fumbles. Davis also intercepted a pass. Harton led UWA tacklers with six. Torrence Willis had five.

Named UWA’s starting quarterback on Friday night, Tennessee Tech transfer Trent Thompson responded by completing 19-of-26 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns before giving way to redshirt freshman Dezmon Huntley early in the third quarter.

Tyler Rogers runs against Stillman College.

Tyler Rogers runs against Stillman College.

Sophomore receiver Randy Satterfield was on the receiving end of both of Thompson’s touchdown passes, one for 32 yards and the other from a yard out. Satterfield ended up with six receptions for 94 yards.

“The first one I threw to Randy was a duck, but I trust him to always come down with it. He seems to defy gravity,” Thompson said. “I felt good, but there a lot of things I can do better and there is plenty of room for improvement.”

“I was waiting for the ball and just saying to myself, ‘hurry up and get here’,” Satterfield said. “I don’t know how I do things like that. I just play.”

Sophomore running back Rashaad Lee scored on runs of 1 and 4 yards while finishing with 54 yards on 13 carries. Huntley was UWA’s leading rusher with 60 yards on four carries, including a 39-yard touchdown run in the third quarter.

Ty Hill effectively put the game away for an electrifying 88-yard punt return for a touchdown in midway through the third quarter. Hill had an earlier 68-yard TD return called back for a block in the back penalty earlier in the game. The senior from Douglas, Georgia, averaged 31.8 yards on four punt returns and returned one kickoff for 20 yards.

Brent O’Neal capped off West Alabama scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter, putting the Tigers up 52-9. O’Neal ran nine times for 45 yards in the fourth quarter.

Rashaad Lee crosses the goal line for a touchdown against Stillman College.

Rashaad Lee crosses the goal line for a touchdown against Stillman College.

Following a 34-yard run by Robert Myers to the Stillman 1-yard line as time was expiring, West Alabama took a knee to end the game.

Cordier completed 8-of-14 passes for 117 yards for Stillman. Malik Odom caught five passes for 40 yards. Rovonta Johnson was the leading rusher for SC, carrying 11 times for 24 yards.

Michael Herrod had 10 tackles to lead Stillman’s defense. Everett Curry tackled Thompson in the end zone for a safety to round out Stillman scoring with 8:55 to play in the third quarter.

Former OK State standout enrolls at UWA

rp_primary_Ty_HillRunning back Ty Hill has enrolled at the University of West Alabama and will join the Tiger football program immediately.

Previous stops for Hill, who is also a world-class sprinter, have been at Garden City Community College in Kansas and Oklahoma State. An All-Big XII selection as an all-purpose player after gaining 1,811 yards for the Cowboys, Hill is expected to be in uniform when West Alabama hosts Stillman College Saturday at Tiger Stadium.

Oklahoma State dismissed Hill from both its football and track teams in December 2014 after he was arrested on domestic violence charges stemming from an incident in which he was accused of punching and choking his pregnant girlfriend. Hill pleaded not guilty in January.

“We hold a high standard for both our football program and our university,” UWA head football coach Brett Gilliland said. “We believe Ty will be successful with the detailed support structure we have at West Alabama.”

Last year at Oklahoma State Hill rushed for 534 yards, caught 31 passes for 281 yards and his 996 combined return yards ranked second in the nation. He was 11th nationally in FBS all-purpose yards per game.