Kevin Porter knew that when he took the reins of the Fort Valley State program that it might take awhile to get things turned around.
But one of his most constant messages throughout the season was that he wanted his team to be playing its best football at the end of the year. The Wildcats had the typical growing pains with a first-year head coach, and three weeks ago, their record of 1-6 showed it.
Slowly but surely, things started to change.
The Wildcats beat Central State on homecoming with a last-second touchdown and then went to Atlanta and got another win over Morehouse. That set them up with a chance to go to the SIAC championship game, but they had to beat rival Albany State, a team they had not beat since 2012.
The Wildcats trailed 17-0 at the half and had only 62 yards of offense, but they stormed back for a 21-17 win, moving them into the SIAC championship game against Kentucky State (6-4).
The game will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday in Montgomery, Alabama.
“These guys have bought in and have never quit, even when we were 1-6,” Porter said. “We came into this year wanting to restore the discipline of this program and playing our best football at the end of the year. Our goal is to have this program to be seen in a positive light, and it’s more than just the football games. But right now, we are focused on Kentucky State on Saturday.”
Fort Valley State benefits from some stellar leadership on both sides of the football. Otis Brown, who had split time at quarterback the past two years, was moved to receiver at the beginning of the year and was enjoying a great year with 23 catches and seven touchdowns through the first seven games. But when starter Demontay Jones went down with a knee injury, Brown was moved back to quarterback and has led his team to three victories.
“He has been such an unselfish guy all season, and he was one of the better receivers in the league,” Porter said. “But we didn’t have any hesitation when we moved him back to quarterback. We have been able to add a little bit every week for him because he has such a high football IQ, and he has been a great leader on the field for us. He continues to be a playmaker for us.”
Defensively, Porter quickly points to defensive back Brian Walker.
“He is the heart and soul of our defense, and he and Ryan Bowman make sure that everyone is where they need to be,” Porter said. “He had a passion to have a great year this year, and he is a very talented football player and I know he is not satisfied with just making the championship game.”
Kentucky State defeated Fort Valley State 26-10 during the regular season.
“We know that they beat us, but we are excited about having another chance,” said Walker, who has 66 tackles, 12 1/2 tackles for loss, and six interceptions.
“We feel like we just have to prepare like we do every week and play harder than we did last time,” Walker said. “It’s a great thing to be able to play for a championship in my last game here, and I just want to make the best of it.”