FLORENCE, Ala. -- It’s the final weekend of the 2015 regular season for the University of North Alabama football team and the Lions’ goals of winning a Gulf South Conference Championship and competing for the NCAA Division II National Championship are still possibilities.
With a 5-1 record in the Gulf South Conference, the Lions enter their regular-season finale with West Alabama in a three-way tie for the GSC lead with West Georgia and Florida Tech. If the Lions defeat the Tigers, the 2015 UNA squad will become just the third in GSC history to win three straight conference football championships. The Lions would join the 1993-95 UNA Lions and 2000-02 Valdosta State Blazers as the only units in GSC history with three straight conference championships.
At 7-2 overall, the Lions are ranked second in Super Region 2 and are on track for an NCAA playoff bid as well.
“I’m really proud of the way this team has put itself in a position to have the opportunity to play for a third straight conference championship,” said UNA Head Football Coach Bobby Wallace. “It’s something that has only been done twice in the history of the league which shows how hard it is to be consistent at that level.”
Standing in the way of a possible 12th GSC football crown is UNA’s oldest rival in West Alabama. UWA is the only school that UNA has faced every season since the re-birth of the sport at the school in 1949.
“West Alabama is an excellent football team and they will come in here highly motivated,” said Wallace. “Beating us would put them back in the conversation for the playoffs so this will be a huge game for them from that perspective. They are very talented and may be, collectively, the fastest team that I can recall playing against. Tyreek Hill is probably the fastest player to ever be in this league so we will have to try and contain him on offense and in the kicking game. Plus they have several other dangerous guys with great skill on offense. On defense, they play hard and run to the football well.”
Wallace also noted that the Tigers’ only losses this season are to playoff contenders Valdosta State, West Georgia and Florida Tech.
Historically, UNA has dominated the rivalry with a 50-17-1 overall record. Included in that figure is a 23-5 record against the Tigers since 1988. But the more recent history has been much different, with the Tigers upsetting favored UNA teams in 2002 and 2004, and again in 2009 in four overtimes in Florence when the Lions were ranked No. 1 in the nation. That was West Alabama’s first win in Florence since 1987 and was orchestrated by current UNA head coach Bobby Wallace who helped put the UWA program back on the map.
Current West Alabama coach Brett Gilliland has the Tigers at 7-3 overall and 3-3 in the GSC this season with an offense that scored 52 points on Shorter and 41 against Delta State, and a defense that has held four opponents to 13 points or less.
Quarterbacks Harry Satterwhite and Trent Thompson have combined to throw for more than 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns and the ground game is balanced with four backs with more than 200 yards on the ground.
Defensively, linebacker Quentin Harton leads the way with 81 tackles, including nine tackles for loss.
UNA continues to get outstanding performances from senior running back Lamonte Thompson, who became the school’s first 1,000-yard rusher in a season since 1997 with his 132-yard performance last week against Shorter. It was his 13th career 100-yard rushing game and fifth of the season. He now ranks second in UNA history in career rushing (3,343)and quarterback Luke Wingo is second in career yards passing (7,357) and total offense (8,538).
When Bobby Wallace returned to UNA as head coach in 2012, his first signing class included 37 freshmen. Many of those players have now reached their senior season and nine members of this year’s senior class are four-year lettermen. UNA will be honoring the 20 senior members of the 2015 football squad in a pre-game ceremony. This group has a 31-12 record over the last four seasons, including a 16-5 mark at Braly Stadium.