For the third straight year, the Valdosta State Blazers are playoff bound.
They'll try to earn the first postseason win of the Kerwin Bell era this Saturday when they host UNC-Pembroke in the first round.
It's the reward after the Blazers won seven of their last eight games to close out the year. VSU is the four seed in Super Regional 2, dropping from the three seed in the last rankings. Bell says that did cause a little disappointment for his team, but he feels it may be a blessing in disguise.
"This is what we wanted. We wanted a home playoff game, and we get to do that in front of our fans against a really good football team," Bell says. "Then we get to go play the big guys. North Alabama is a team we feel like we can play with, but it all starts with this week. We have to focus in on UNC-Pembroke. They're a very balanced football team, and we need to go play one of our better games of the year to win this one."
The winner of Saturday's game faces top-seeded North Alabama in the second round.
Bell says preparing for the playoffs is not a new feeling, as his team has been battling for their postseason lives for much of the last month. Still, he'll admit it is a new season from here on out. Bell knows his team must be ready to play their best game or they could be going home.
"Every team that's in this can win it. They're all really good football teams," he says. "The intensity level's going to rise. So will the focus and determination. We've had a great week of practice. I've been proud of them for how they've focused in."
VSU will run through the smoke just before the 1:00 kickoff Saturday afternoon in Titletown.
Copyright 2016 WALB. All rights reserved.