LIVINGSTON, Ala. (UWA Athletics) – West Florida extended its winning streak to five games and advanced to the 2017 NCAA Division II Semi-finals with a 28-21 college football victory over West Alabama Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The win improved West Florida, which hasn't lost since a 35-18 setback at West Alabama on Oct. 28, to 10-3. Four of the Argonauts' wins in the five-game streak have come on the road, the last three on the road in the playoffs.
West Alabama closes its season 10-3, a year that saw the Tigers win an outright Gulf South Conference championship and win 10 games for the first time since 1975.
"West Florida played really well and we didn't execute well at times, but that's to their credit," UWA head coach Brett Gilliland said. "I thought they were a good football team when we played them in October. They are sound in what they do.
"To go on the road and win two times in three weeks at West Georgia and then beat Wingate 31-0 on the road and then beat us here," Gilliland said. "That's a good football team."
The Tigers got off to a fast start, with Tyler Rogers capping a seven-play, 53-yard drive with a 21-yard touchdown run with 9:55 left in the first period to stake UWA to a 7-0 lead. UWF answered on a 2-yard TD pass from Mike Beaudry to Anthony Johnson four minutes later to tie the score.
Harry Satterwhite hooked up with Barnard McGhee for a 3-yard touchdown pass with 9:48 left in the second quarter for the only scoring in the period and the Tigers took a 14-7 lead into halftime.
West Alabama came into the game 9-0 when leading at the half. West Florida changed all that with a dominating third quarter, outgaining the Tigers 139 to 20 and scoring on a 40-yard run by Johnson and a 25-yard pass from Beaudry to Ka'Ron Ashley.
"They got a lot of momentum in the third quarter and that ended up being the deciding quarter in the game," Gilliland said. "We came out flat after halftime and they took advantage of it."
A 2-yard touchdown run by Chris Schwarz stretched the Argonaut lead to 28-14 with 6:27 left to play and seemingly put the game away, but West Alabama was not done.
"They made great plays. We got some good hits on Beaudry, but he still made plays," UWA linebacker Khalia Hackett said. "It is bitter to end like this. It just hits you all at once."
Satterwhite and Tra Fletcher connected on a 10-yard scoring pass with 1:32 left, capping an eight-play, 76-yard drive to cut the UWF margin to 28-21.
Terry Samuel recovered Jordan Bennett's onside kick, but the Tiger drive and season ended on a fourth-and-2 incomplete pass. With both teams out of timeouts, West Florida took a knee twice to run out the clock.
"West Alabama is conference champions for a reason," UWF head coach Pete Shinnick said. "That second half was probably as good of football as we have played all year. I told our guys at the half that we were about to play our best football of the year in the second half."
West Florida finished with 380 total yards to 331 for West Alabama, with 159 of the Tigers yards coming in the fourth quarter. Neither team had a turnover.
"We are disappointed. We had a great year and we wanted to keep playing for these seniors," Satterwhite said. "West Florida is a good football team and they didn't allow us to get first downs when we needed them to keep drives going."
Satterwhite, a finalist for the 2017 Harlon Hill Trophy that honors the top player in Division II, completed 19-of-36 for 225 yards and two touchdowns. Satterwhite finished the season with 3,421 passing yards to set the UWA single-season record.
Beaudry finished 18-for-29 for 247 yards and two scores. Neither quarterback was intercepted.
Lakenderic Thomas led West Alabama rushers with 58 yards on 17 carries. Qua Boyd and Donta Armstrong both caught five passes for UWA, Boyd for 93 yards and Armstrong for 73.
Schwarz led West Florida runners with 68 yards on 20 carries. Johnson chipped in 59 on eight trips. Ashley caught four passes for 92 yards.
Both teams had two quarterback sacks and five tackles for loss.
Johnathon Coleman racked up 16 tackles to lead UWF and all tacklers in the game. Andre Duncombe had eight stops. John Williamson had a sack, while Coleman and Martes Wheeler combined to sack Satterwhite.
Montell Dent made six tackles to lead West Alabama, while Hackett, Samuel and Carmarcus Williams all chipped in five stops. Jordan Jones and Ezekiel Ufomadu each recorded a sack for the Tigers.