LIVINGSTON, Ala. -- The players danced and chanted "Size Me Up" in the postgame locker room following West Alabama's 35-18 Gulf South Conference football victory over West Florida Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The reference was clear, West Alabama had just captured at least a tie for the 2017 GSC Championship, its first league title since the 2013 season. The Tigers can win the championship outright with a victory at Valdosta State next Saturday.
"You just earned yourself a ring, so enjoy it tonight," Tiger head coach Brett Gilliland told his team. "It's back to work tomorrow. We haven't reached our goal yet."
Gilliland was making sure his football team stayed focused with a red-hot Valdosta State team waiting in South Georgia next weekend. A win at Valdosta State would give UWA the outright title. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. central time.
"I am excited for our players and staff. It was great to see how excited they were," Gilliland said. "This is obviously not our ultimate goal, but it's worth celebrating tonight."
Both offenses started slowly, with the Tigers and Argonauts battling to a 0-0 tied after the first quarter. West Alabama took a 14-9 lead at half, trading UWF three field goals for a pair of touchdown passes by Harry Satterwhite.
Satterwhite connected with Donta Armstrong from 9 yards out on the first play of the second period and then found Tra Fletcher for a 15-yard scoring pass with 54 seconds left before the break. Austin Williams kicked two 39-yard field goals and one from 22 yards in the second quarter.
In the end, the game was decided by the outcome of four red zone possessions by each team. Four trips to the red zone by UWA resulted in touchdowns. Four visits by UWF resulted in three field goals and a TD. Both teams had 12 drives in the game, but five ended in touchdowns for West Alabama and four ended in field goals for West Florida.
"West Florida is a good football team, but us being able to hold them to field goals gave us a chance to win and eventually stretch it to a more comfortable margin at the end," Gilliland said. "They are a good offense with a quarterback that makes good decisions."
A 25-yard field goal by Williams was the only points of the third quarter, but West Alabama finished with a flurry, scoring three touchdowns in the final 12:37 of the game.
Satterwhite found Corey Davis for a 5-yard TD pass to open fourth quarter scoring, while Lakenderic Thomas and Tyler Rogers finished it off with 26 and 1-yard touchdown runs, respectively.
West Florida's only touchdown of the game came on an 8-yard scoring pass from Mike Beaudry to Caleb Robinson with 5:57 left. The Argos attempted an onside kick following the score, but UWA recovered and drove 44 yards on eight plays to ice the game away on Rogers' run.
West Alabama rolled up 410 yards of total offense to 371 for West Florida. UWA limited the Argos to just 100 rushing yards while the Tigers ran for 220.
"We gave the crowd what they wanted to see and that was a 'W'," Armstrong said. "First downs lead to touchdowns, so we just keep playing."
Thomas carried 18 times for 106 yards to lead all rushers. Rogers added 58 yards in 15 trips for UWA. Jalen Spencer ran five times for 57 yards to pace West Florida.
"There was a lot of tension on both sides of the field with both teams playing for a lot," Thomas said. "We have to remember we aren't done yet. We have to make sure we don't share this title."
Satterwhite finished 19-for-28 for 190 yards and three scores. Beaudry was 27-for-51 for 271 yards. He was intercepted twice.
Armstrong had seven receptions for 72 yards to lead West Alabama and Davis hauled in four for 23. Antoine Griffin had eight receptions for 94 yards to lead West Florida. Rodney Coates caught four passes for 70 yards.
Jamal Blackwell led West Alabama defenders with 12 tackles, eight solo. He also intercepted a pass and had a tackle for loss. Tevin Madison chipped in nine tackles and recorded his fifth interception. Terry Samuel recorded a sack, while Ashton Derico and Michael Williams teamed up for another.
"I felt like they were attacking me early in the game and I was having some technique issues in the first half," Blackwell said. "I made the adjustments at the half and I knew the rock was coming at me. I just made a play."
Josh Smiley led UWF with 11 total tackles, including one for loss. The Argos were not able to sack Satterwhite.