Seth Hinsley powers West Georgia into Division II playoffs

Seth Hinsley has rushed for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns for West Georgia.

Seth Hinsley has rushed for 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns for West Georgia.

Running for 1,000 yards wasn’t on Seth Hinsley’s mind before the season began. He wasn’t sure how West Georgia’s new coaching staff would use him this fall.

“To be honest, I didn’t even think about it until game eight or nine,” he said. “That’s when the offensive line brought it to my attention.”

And when the senior from Norcross rushed for a career-high 196 yards in the Wolves’ final regular-season game last Saturday, it pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark.

Hinsley’s 1,050 yards and 10 touchdowns power West Georgia’s offense heading into the first round of Division II playoffs, where the Wolves (9-2) will play at Tuskegee (9-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday.

This is West Georgia’s first playoff appearance since 2000.

“The kids are really buying in to how we do things and the staff has done a tremendous job,” said coach Will Hall, who was hired from West Alabama one year ago this week. “I knew we had some good players coming back, and we quickly hired a staff, which was an instant help. Everything has come together and we’ve jelled really quickly.”

Tuskegee, which won the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championship, is the No. 3 seed in Super Region 2, while the Wolves are seeded sixth.

The winner will play Gulf South Conference co-champ Delta State (9-1) in the second round.

Hinsley entered this season with 1,391 career yards, but Hall and offensive coordinator Sam Gregg focus their offenses around the run game.

Under Hall and Gregg, West Alabama led the GSC in rushing from 2011-13. West Georgia finished first in rushing this season, averaging 251.6 yards a game, which is 14th in Division II.

“We build around our talent,” Hall said. “I’m not shocked we have a great running game.”

Hinsley excelled in the second half of the season, rushing for 159 yards in an upset of Delta State, 140 against Mississippi College, and 92 against Florida Tech before his career-best performance last week, which included a school record-tying four touchdowns.

He’s scored six times in the past two games.

“It feels great, but I definitely can’t take any credit for it,” Hinsley said. “The offensive line has been phenomenal this year. They’ve taken care of their jobs. I’m not a Marshawn Lynch, but they get me to the second level. If it wasn’t for them, 1,000 yards wouldn’t exist.”

SIAC superlatives

Fort Valley State linebacker LeRon Furr (Carver-Columbus) is the SIAC’s MVP and defensive player of the year, and Albany State running back Jarvis Small (Brunswick) is the conference’s top offensive player.

Furr finished tied for the SIAC lead in tackles (108) and third in tackles for loss with 16½.

Small led the conference with 1,169 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns, rushing for more than 100 yards in eight games.

Clark Atlanta defensive back Terrence Montgomery (Westlake) is the co-freshman of the year, ending the season with 51 tackles.

Around the state

Shorter (3-7) was invited to play North Greenville (6-5) in the Victory Bowl, which is presented by the National Christian Collegiate Athletic Association. It will be played at noon Saturday at Shorter’s Barron Stadium. … Shorter safety Jordan Shaw (Pickens County) was selected as the GSC’s defensive player of the year after he led the conference with eight interceptions and was third with 81 tackles. … Mercer will finish with a winning record with a victory at Wofford. The Bears are 6-5 in their first season in the Southern Conference behind redshirt freshman running back Alex Lakes (Northgate), who has 1,094 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Bears lead the conference in scoring (34.9 points) and total offense (423.7 yards). … Reinhardt defensive back Marcus Miller (Marist) is the Mid-South Conference defensive freshman of the year after he tied for the team lead with 58 tackles. … Valdosta State (8-2) will play North Alabama in the first round of the Division II playoffs (1 p.m. Saturday), a rematch of the Lions’ 31-29 victory over the Blazers on Sept. 27. Valdosta State has won six straight since that loss.

Saturday’s schedule

North Greenville at Shorter, noon

Valdosta State at North Alabama, 1 p.m.

West Georgia at Tuskegee, 1 p.m.

Mercer at Wofford, 1:30 p.m.

Savannah State at BYU, 3 p.m.

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