Andy Davis

All-GSC Regional Finals

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Dilly dilly! For the first time in since 2014, two Gulf South Conference teams will battle for the Super Region Two championship and a berth into the national semi-finals.

In this matchup, the Cinderella West Florida Argonauts (9-3) travel up to Livingston again to take on the 2017 GSC Champion West Alabama Tigers (10-2). The last time the two squads met was the final Saturday of October when UWA’s win propelled them to the conference title.

This will be the first time either team has played is in the Division II Regional Final, although UWA played in the D2 semis back in 1975 decades before regionalization.

A Tiger Tale

Picture it. December 2013. Just a few seasons ago, both programs were in the process of hiring head coaches.

After winning their second-consecutive conference title, but missing the playoffs and losing Will Hall to West Georgia, the West Alabama faithful had been on a ride of emotions. The best way to heal those feelings quickly was to bring home someone with program ties. They hired former Tiger alum and Harlon Hill nominee quarterback Brett Gilliland, who had been an assistant on FCS staffs in Georgia for the five seasons prior.

Gilliland went back to Livingston and had to jump into rebuilding the team. He’s now done that. After returning most of last year’s team, it was evident that this was the year for West Alabama to do something. That something just happens to be winning the GSC title and a chance to win the region and possibly more.

One interesting connection in this matchup is that Gilliland grew up and attended high school in Pensacola. His father, Ronnie, is a veteran high school coach and played for West Alabama, while his mother is also a UWA alumnus.

Build It

And they will come. Just a month or so later in January of 2014, Pensacola - which had been abuzz with chatter since the announcement of starting the program - got the announcement they’d been waiting on. Pete Shinnick was hired to become the first ever football coach at the university and be in charge of constructing the program from scratch, something he had a reputation for doing.

Shinnick had done the same thing at UNC-Pembroke before UWF snagged him away in what was a pretty brilliant move. He immediately started recruiting and went through the process of assembling a team of high school signees complement by transfers before having spring practice, fall camp, and playing scrimmage games during 2015 in preparation for the inaugural season of 2016.

What transpired since then is nothing short of incredible. The Argos have achieved so much in just two years of fielding a competitive team. Tying for second in the conference, making the playoffs, and winning two playoff games with the chance to make even more history. Amazing.

Fast Forward

Trick or Treat? A few weeks ago, it was a brisk pre-Halloween night and the Argos matched up with the Tigers for what was essentially version 3.5 of the GSC title game. UWA was coming off of a loss at FIT and it was Homecoming in Livingston.

During that game, both teams moved the ball well but while UWF scored field goals, UWA scored touchdowns. The fact is, it was a two-point game at the end of the 3rd Quarter before the Tigers pulled away and earned the ring, their first since 2013.

Both teams have won all games since that contest.

On the Ground

RTDB! West Alabama favored their rushing game in the last meeting getting 220 yards on the ground. Since then, West Florida has only allowed 82.5 rushing yards per game. The Tigers, however, have favored their passing attack during the past two games.

If the Argos can contain Harlon Hill Finalist quarterback Harry Satterwhite and company, the passing game of UWA can be pressured into poor execution and mistakes.

If that doesn’t happen, the Tigers will be able to use the run to set up the pass and that will take the UWF defense to task over four quarters.

Hold on Tight

Secure the ball! Turnovers could play a big role this one. Last week, West Florida had five giveaways against West Georgia and still found a way to win. They won’t get another shot like that.

The Tigers are +15 in Turnover Margin this year while UWF is +8. Yet, the Argos only had 9 turnovers the entire season until last week. Meanwhile, UWA averages 2.5 takeaways per game.

Look for West Alabama to win the turnover battle if victory and a trip to the national semifinals are in the stars for them.

The Kick is Up

And it’s good! Both teams have standout players on special teams, although consistency is the key to utilizing this advantage for either team.

Argos kicker Austin Williams tied a GSC record last week for most field goals in a season with 23, but he has missed nine this year. Meanwhile,
Tiger kickers have combined to lead the conference in field goal percentage by connecting on 17 of 23 kicks (73.9%).

Both teams also feature good punt return specialists as West Florida leads the conference with 15.2 yards per return along with one touchdown while UWA isn’t far behind with 11.7 yards per return and two touchdowns.

It’s a grand ole flag!

Not a fan of yellow? Both teams have benefitted and suffered from penalties but West Alabama has had their share of them this season averaging almost 90 yards per game. On the flip side, UWF averages less than half of that.

While playoff games against other conferences call for officials from a third conference, playoff games against a team from the same conference uses their own stripes.

So, love’em or not, it’s truly an All-GSC final!

Who’s it gonna be?

Argos or Tigers? Well, it’s easy to just say that West Alabama is going to win this game based on their resume and the recent head-to-head victory over the Argos. But it’s not that simple.

West Florida is clicking on a different gear as of late and playing really good football. The game will probably be decided in the final minutes of the contest based on field position and the ability to control the end of the battle.

I’m going with my heart over my head in this one.

My pick: West Florida by 3

Andy Davis has followed GSC sports since 1985 and proudly covered the conference for since 2014. He is a past contributor to the D2 Football Preview, TimesDaily, and Franklin County Times as well as having appeared on ESPN Pensacola radio. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter.

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Updated 11-30-2017 at 07:54 PM by Andy Davis



  1. BlazerLady's Avatar
    Good write up, Andy. I would hate to have to pick this one. It may just come down to the last second.
  2. TheBraveWolf's Avatar
    Great job, Andy... This is a toss up... I like the new guy but I also like tradition.... I may have to go along with UWF. I think whoever wins this games will be hard to beat going forward. I wish the winner the best and will be pulling for whoever going forward.

    PS-- GSC is a great conference, so you would think the officials would be up to the task... I just hope a bad call or a no call does not determine who wins or loses...