The competition between Austin Scott and Cedric O’Neal is friendly, but intense, and has a purpose.
The Valdosta State running backs try to out-perform one another in daily practices so they can better prepare themselves for the Blazers’ opponents.
“We want to keep the defenses guessing,” O’Neal said. “We have two true No. 1 running backs, so teams never know what they’re going to get.”
Scott and O’Neal have been carrying their competition and sharing carries for three seasons, heading into the second round of the Division II playoffs.
The Blazers (9-2), who are seeded fifth in Super Region Two, will play at top seeded Lenoir-Rhyne (11-0) at noon today.
Both juniors, Scott and O’Neal have combined for 5,492 yards and 47 touchdowns during their time together and helped lead Valdosta State to the 2012 national title as freshmen.
O’Neal, (Dublin), is 6 foot, 215 pounds, compared to Scott’s 5-8, 180, and has more career yards (2,921) and touchdowns (29).
Scott (Hardaway), though, leads the Blazers with 868 yards this season to boost his career total to 2,571 yards and 18 touchdowns.
O’Neal is fifth and Scott is seventh on Valdosta State’s career rushing list.
“They do the same things in our offense, but Cedric is more of a power guy and Austin is more of a slasher. He’ll put a move on somebody,” Valdosta State coach David Dean said. “Otherwise, we don’t do anything different offensively or change our blocking schemes depending on who’s in the game. Our approach is to get those guys in the open.”
It’s a philosophy that’s worked well, especially this season.
The Blazers are 19th in Division II in rushing (236.5 yards) after rushing for 395 in last week’s victory over North Alabama.
Their camaraderie is evident.
Scott, who redshirted his freshman season, calls O’Neal his “big, little brother.” O’Neal said Scott is “one of the best teammates I’ve ever had.”
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot from watching Austin. And vice versa,” O’Neal said. “We help each other out and I cherish the time I’ve had playing with him. He’ll get onto me when I’ve done something wrong or missed a block or something. And vice versa. We keep each other accountable.”
Dean said: “They’re good friends and always hanging around each other any time you ever see them. They do have a competition with each other, but they’re also supportive of each other. If one has a good run, the other will congratulate him. It’s a friendly competition, one that’s been very good for us, because they try to out do each other.”
This season is beginning to look remarkably similar to Valdosta State’s 2012 national championship run.
The Blazers had two early losses that year, but then won 10 consecutive games to win the title.
Valdosta State lost two consecutive September games this year, but has won seven straight heading into today’s game.
“I hope it is (like 2012),” Dean said. “I feel that way, the way the team is coming together. Their attitude is great and their work ethic is great. We have great team unity, and the family atmosphere we emphasize here is a plus for us.”
West Georgia at Delta State
The Wolves (9-2) will try to defeat Delta State for the second time after handing the Statesmen (9-1) their only loss on Oct. 18.
Sixth-seeded West Georgia plays at second-seeded Delta State at 1 p.m. today.
Seth Hinsley (Norcross) has rushed for 1,177 yards and 11 touchdowns for the Wolves, who are 14th in Division II in rushing with 243.3 yards a game.
West Georgia gave up 400 yards in the first regular-season game, but held the Statesmen, who are averaging 500.2 points and 46.4 points, to 16 points, thanks to three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Valdosta State junior running backs Austin Scott and Cedric O’Neal have been a tough duo to stop.
2014 – 868, four TDs
2013 – 673 yards, five TDs
2012 – 1,030 yards, nine TDs
Total – 2,571, 18 TDs
2014 – 748, nine TDs
2013 – 975, six TDs
2012 – 1,198 yards, 14 TDs
Total – 2,921, 29 TDs