FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Xavier Omon and his fellow Northwest Missouri State seniors have a chance to dramatically upgrade an already impressive legacy.
Co. are 0-for-2.
``Thank God we made it back here to get another chance,'' said Omon, an All-America running back. ``We feel like we've got to do it now or never. We want to be remembered for winning a championship and not for losing three in a row.''
Northwest Missouri has already gotten through its biggest obstacle of recent seasons with last week's 34-16 win over Grand Valley State, which beat the Bearcats in the last two title games by a combined seven points.
Valdosta State quarterback Willie Copeland has a legacy of his own he'd like to change. He played for a high school team that went 1-19 over his final two seasons, started his college career at Fort Valley State and then transferred hoping to play for a winner. The Blazers failed to make the playoffs last season.
Copeland and first-year head coach David Dean have led an impressive run for his senior season.
``It's like all my dreams came true,'' Copeland said. ``Hopefully we can win one more game so the dream can be completed. Right now, I'm living a dream. It means a lot to me.''
Dean is having a pretty good debut, too. The Blazers, who have seven players remaining from the 2004 championship team, have won seven straight games and won the tough Gulf South Conference.
``Anytime you can make it to the championship game, you've got to feel real good, whether it's your first year as a head coach or your 10th year,'' Dean said. ``It being my first year just makes it a little bit more sweet.''
Northwest Missouri, which captured Division II titles in 1998 and 1999, has won 12 consecutive games since dropping the opener to Nebraska-Omaha.
The teams have used different formulas for success.
For Valdosta State, Copeland has passed for 2,903 yards and 27 TDs. Cedric Jones has 82 catches for 1,076 yards and 10 scores, while Michael Terry (1,071 yards) leads the running game.
Northwest Missouri has been balanced despite Omon's nation-leading 2,274 yards rushing and 36 TDs. The Bearcats are averaging 230 yards rushing and 227 passing.
Joel Osborn has passed for 1,834 yards even though he's made only five starts. Josh Mathews - last year's championship game starter - has been bothered by nagging injuries. Osborn has started all three playoff games.
Omon is the Bearcats' best weapon. He is only the second back in Division II history to rush for 7,000 career yards, entering the game with 7,010. Chadron State's Danny Woodhead holds the record with 7,962 yards. Omon also ran 292 yards and scored four touchdowns, including a 98-yard run against Grand Valley.
``He has an uncanny ability to break tackles,'' Dean said. ``He can take a 5- or 6-yard run and turn it into a 30-yard-yard run or even a long touchdown because he breaks tackles. I think he is the best that we've faced this year. He's the total package.''
Omon runs behind a line that features three 300-pounders.
``They're a lot bigger than we are,'' Dean said. ``They're a big, physical football team. I've been impressed with how hard they play. You don't see a guy taking a play off. That's impressive There's not a weakness out there.''
Copeland has been impressed by Northwest Missouri's defense, allowing only 316 yards a game, including an average of 94 on the ground.
``It's a great defense,'' Copeland said. ``They don't give up the big plays. I guess that's what you ask for from a defense. They're probably one of the fastest defenses I've seen.''
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