The Valdosta Daily Times
FLORENCE, Ala. —
The Valdosta State Blazers enter today’s national championship game against Winston-Salem State looking to keep a normal game day schedule.
But this week is anything but normal.
From an earlier departure from Valdosta to media responsibilities, community service, banquets, lunches and other rigorous demands, the week of the national championship game is anything bur normal for the teams participating in today’s game, set for a 1 p.m. Eastern kickoff from Braly Municipal Stadium.
“It's crazy. It is absolutely insane,” Valdosta State head coach David Dean said. “There are so many things you have to do, as far as preparing your team. Basically, you are doing six days of work in three days because you work Sunday to Friday to get ready for a game. Now you have to cram six days of work into three.”
Luckily for the Blazers, this week’s championship appearance isn’t the first for Dean, who guided the Blazers to the 2007 national championship in his first season as head coach. He was also an assistant coach when the Blazers lost to Grand Valley State in 2002 and beat Pittsburg State in 2004.
“I can gain on a lot of experience,” Dean said. “What we need to do and how we need to handle things and just the approach of our football team and letting them know what will happen. When you don't know what is going to happen and go in blind, like we did with Grand Valley, everything was just a whirlwind to you. I think that is the one thing that has helped us all along. You learn from that experience.”
The week in Florence began Wednesday night when both teams arrived. On Thursday, coaches and select players went through a media day before going through a full-team practice at the University of North Alabama practice field. At night, the teams participated in a championship dinner, which featured skits and friendly competitions.
On Friday, both teams read to elementary students in the Florence area, before participating in a walk-through at the stadium. After a lunch, the teams were able to rest and relax at their respective team hotels.
“Our coaches have done a really good job,” said VSU defensive end Tyler Josey, who is the only member of the 2012 Blazers that was on the 2007 team. “They started Sunday saying, ‘It is going to be really hectic and you are going to have to be on point.’ They have really taken care of us and let us know where we have to be and what time. They have toned it down. Although it may look hectic from the outside, it is not really as bad as it seems.”
While the Blazers are making their fourth-ever appearance in the national championship game, Winston-Salem State is making its first appearance. Regardless, Dean has told his team they can’t take the Rams lightly.
“Some of their guys, at some point or another, might have been part of a championship run,” Dean said. “I don’t know.”