By ADD SEYMOUR JR.
Tuskegee is only a few steps away from a possible NCAA Division II championship game berth. But that road winds its way 45 minutes west of Atlanta in Carrollton, Ga. where the Golden Tigers take on West Georgia in the Division II playoffs quarterfinal round Saturday.
Tuskegee (10-2) knocked off North Alabama in the waning seconds last Saturday in the playoffs' second round 35-31.
Now they face a West Georgia (11-1) team that is the top ranked team in Super Region Two bracket. Tuskegee is ranked sixth. At stake is a place in the Division II playoffs semifinals.
It's the second consecutive year that the two teams meet in the D-2 playoffs. Last year, Tuskegee lost a close 20-17, first-round game in Carrollton.
West Georgia had to come from behind last weekend to defeat rival Valdosta State 27-20. But they are a team that has a strong running game with three players (Devontae Jackson - 910 yards; Lamarcus Franks - 339, and Aares McCall - 455) combined for nearly 2,000 yards on the ground this season. Quarterback Dallas Dickey has thrown for 1,721 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 529 yards and four touchdowns.
The rushing stats are big because Tuskegee is 9-1 when they hold opposing offenses to under 150 yards rushing this season. They've held opponents to an average of 110 yards rushing per game this season.
On defense, the Wolves have only allowed 15.3 points a game and are led by Dylan Donahue who has 11 sacks and 15 tackles for loss this season while Marlon Chapman led the team with 66 tackles.
With last season's loss fresh on their minds, Tuskegee head coach Willie Slater's team is hungry and ready.
"I haven't forgotten about last year," senior receiver Travis Hawkins told The Montgomery Advertiser. "Definitely motivated, definitely hungry. They're the team everybody's trying to beat. They're on top. I don't think many people are expecting us to win, and that's how I like it. But I know I'm ready. I know my team's ready and I'm excited to play them."
"We're playing a team, I feel like one of the best teams in the whole country," Slater told the Advertiser. "But as crazy as it sounds, we're kind of excited about it. They have like 26 Division I players, guys that've played Division I football. So that's what we're up against. Which makes our kids excited because they get a chance to play against the best and see how good they really are. I think we have some good players too. It's going to be an interesting game."
Kickoff in Carrolton is at 11 a.m. Saturday.