On a day when many of the senior supporters of the Fort Valley State Wildcats were honored, it was the play of the underclassmen that led the Wildcats to a 37-14 home victory over Lane on senior day on Saturday.
The offense clicked in the first half, rolling up 15 first downs, 259 yards of total offense and 24 points. The only blemish was a fumble by junior quarterback Slade Jarmon in field goal range on a third-down scramble with less than a minute to go in the half.
The defense was equally impressive, surrendering four first downs and 50 total yards to the Dragons and holding Lane scoreless in the first half.
The second half began with the two teams exchanging touchdowns before the offenses were stagnant for the remainder of the third quarter.
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The fourth quarter featured two more touchdowns. Lane running back Marcus Holliday had his second touchdown of the day, which made the score 31-14, and the Wildcats answered with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jarmon to freshman Tajee Steele.
Four who mattered
Lorenzo Smothers: The Fort Valley State sophomore was dangerous running the ball, receiving and in special teams. He had 37 yards rushing, 76 yards receiving and one touchdown. He even had a 90-yard missed field goal return for a touchdown before it was called back due to a block-in-the-back penalty.
Steele: The freshman continued to have a strong season, accounting for 68 yards on five receptions, and he scored twice.
Jarmon: Despite two turnovers once the game was well in hand, the junior was 19-for-24 with 293 yards and four touchdowns. That included a 52-yarder to tight end Daniel Gordon.
Aaron Dore: The junior defensive back intercepted Lane quarterback Thurston Rubin twice and had his hands on two other possible interceptions. He also assisted on three tackles.
The offense is almost there: It’s easy to see the comfort and continuity this offense is beginning to exhibit. It’s a monumental improvement from the Wildcats’ game against Miles in which they looked lost at times. In their three conference games, the Wildcats (3-3 overall, 3-0 SIAC) have averaged more than 30 points per game.
The defense is fast, nasty and young: Nineteen of the 22 players on the defensive two-deep are underclassmen. That’s a scary thought for opposing offenses in the conference. The defense played well enough to beat Southern, an FCS program, two weeks ago. The longer these defenders play together, the more their confidence grows, and they will begin to develop the confidence that great defenses have.
They said it
Fort Valley State head coach Kevin Porter on his offense’s improvements: “I think it has a lot to do with our offensive line. I think our offensive line is starting to understand how we want to play football. The are developing the mentality up front that you have to have in order to play football. We are a run-first football team, and the only way you are going to run the ball effectively is if those guys are playing well.”
Smothers on his versatility and making exciting plays: “My coaches preach to me all the time about how being a playmaker and executing makes a difference in the game, so I try my best to let the play present itself and do what I can when I’m out there. My team believes in me, and that’s the only thing I need. I couldn’t do it without them.”
Dore on the impact of an interception: “When you get (an interception), that’s the money in the bank. You get that good feeling, you feel good for the team, and you get the offense back out there so we can put some more points on the board.”
The Wildcats travel to Central State on Saturday.