FLORENCE, Ala. -- Oh so close.

Valdosta State's chance for its first Division II national football championship, all but left for dead entering the fourth quarter, found life.

Then a record-setting passing combination took it away.

David Kircus caught a 10-yard pass from Curt Anes with 1:04 left, giving Grand Valley State (14-0) a 31-24 victory over Valdosta State (14-1) in the title game before 9,783 at Braly Municipal Stadium.

A national television audience (ESPN) also watched as the Blazers fought back from a 24-6 deficit, tying the game at 24-24 on Tim Thompson's fumble recovery in the end zone and Buster Faulkner's two-point flip pass to C.J. Lofton with 3:09 left.

But Grand Valley State went 68 yards in seven plays to score the winning touchdown. Anes, named Division II's best player on Friday, went 5-for-6 on the drive. All the completions went to Kircus, including the final 10-yard pass.

Kircus caught 76 touchdown passes in his career, more than any other Division II player in history. He has 35 touchdowns this season.

"No question. You saw the two best teams in the country," said Valdosta State head coach Chris Hatcher after the meeting of the top two ranked teams in Division II. "We didn't leave anything out on the field.

"Our team has found a way to win each and every week. We came about a minute from finding another way to win."

Anes finished the day 23-of-36 for 361 yards and three touchdowns. Kircus caught 11 passes for 270 yards. Both yardage marks were Division II championship game records.

The Blazers capped the program's best-ever season, advancing past the South Region championship game for the first time. Valdosta State has won back-to-back-to-back Gulf South Conference championships.

Hatcher has led VSU to a 36-4 record in his three years at the school. Three of the four losses have come to the eventual national champion.



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