The script changed for the Fort Valley State Wildcats in a matter of one quarter in last week’s 27-20 loss to undefeated Alderson Broaddus.
Leading 20-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Wildcats were on the verge of winning their fourth straight game, which they haven’t done in nearly three years -- before allowing the Battlers to rattle off 20 straight points in the final five minutes.
The loss was a difficult one to swallow after head coach Donald Pittman said his team “played a really good game.”
“That’s why it was so devastating for not only the team but for the fans,” he said. “It would have been a big game for the program.”
But that was last week. Scheduled to travel to Frankfort, Kentucky, for a matchup with Kentucky State on Saturday, the Wildcats will have to bounce back quickly. Playing conference foe Kentucky State, which has three former Fort Valley State assistant coaches on its coaching staff, makes a potential bounce-back victory even sweeter for Pittman.
Thorobreds head coach Josh Dean joined the Wildcats’ staff in 2009 as an assistant to the head coach. For three seasons, he helped in game-planning and developing tight ends and defensive backs before taking a position at Kentucky State in 2012.
Dean’s father, Vernon Dean, also coached the secondary at Fort Valley State from 2008-09, and he is now in his first season at Kentucky State as its defensive coordinator. Frank Turner also left Fort Valley State for Kentucky State after serving as the defensive line coach from 2009-13.
The teams have split the past two games after the Wildcats defeating the Thorobreds 36-21 in Fort Valley last year.
“There’s a little grudge match there,” Pittman said. “We like each other, but when it comes time to play, all that goes out the door. Each one of us wants to win, and it doesn’t matter if they have a very good record or a very bad record.”
Kentucky State will look to improve upon a current two-game winning streak after losing its first three games. Pittman wants to see the first-half version of the Wildcats from the Alderson Broaddus game.
“We are going to bounce back,” he said. “We expect to improve our run offense and to improve our defense so far as to stopping the run and not giving up big plays.”
Offensively, the Wildcats ran for 139 yards but gained only 3.2 yards per carry with starting quarterback Otis Brown sitting due to a shoulder injury, backup Malcolm Eady completed 21-of-38 passes for 198 yards, two touchdowns and an interception with seven seconds remaining.
Pittman said Brown is still questionable but improving, and the team expects his status to be a game-time decision. Although he did not say which way he was leaning, Pittman did say Brown is “feeling pretty good.”
The Wildcats currently hold the top spot in the SIAC East after a 3-0 start.
“We know each other well, and it’s going to be a very challenging match,” he said. “It’ll be a knockout, drag-out fight starting from the very first quarter to the last.”