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Round one playoff opponents announced for Delta State and Belhaven

Delta State quarterback Patrick Shegog (left) and Belhaven running back Kolbe Blunt (right)

The Delta State and Belhaven football teams found out their round-one opponents on Sunday for the Division II and Division III playoffs, respectively. Marking the first time since 2008 that Mississippi has had representation in both, here are the matchups for this Saturday.

Delta State vs. West Florida

Delta State (9-1) will face a familiar foe in Gulf South Conference rival West Florida (8-3) in round one. This will be the second year in a row the two have faced off in the playoffs, with the Argos bouncing the Statesmen in round two last season. A rematch of a week eight West Florida 24-21 win, Delta State will look to learn from its only loss of the season and find a win when it matters most over the Argos. The winner will go on to face either fellow GSC team Valdosta State or Limestone for a spot in the quarterfinals.

Comparing the numbers

A matchup of the GSC’s top offense versus the top defense, Delta State’s high-powered attack averaging 464 yards and 43.5 points per game will go against a West Florida defense that rarely allows more than two touchdowns. The Statesmen’s defense isn’t far behind, though, allowing 17.4 points per game. They’ll have their work cut out for them against an Argo offense that averages 443 yards and 34 points on a weekly basis.

Key to the game

Delta State’s key to victory is accuracy from the quarterback position. During the first go-round against West Florida, Patrick Shegog had his most inaccurate game of the season and one of the most inaccurate games of his career at 39 percent. Say Shegog learns from the film and plays like he usually does, the rest of the offense will follow suit. The defense will need to do its best to contain quarterback Peewee Jarrett and wide receiver John Jiles.

Where: Cleveland, Miss.

When: 1 p.m. CT

Belhaven vs. North Central

A tough draw for the USA South champions, Belhaven (9-1) will travel to Illinois to face the top team in the nation in North Central (10-0). The Blazers, who were projected by D3football.com on Saturday to play No. 20 Whitworth, instead will play the defending national champions after the playoff committee decided to give the Wisconsin-La Crosse the top seed on their side of the bracket. The winner will play either Trinity or Hardin-Simmons in the second round.

Comparing the numbers

On paper, these two teams aren’t as far off as their overall rankings suggest. North Central is averaging over 60 points per game while Belhaven puts up 39.4 per game. The Blazers allow roughly 11 points per game while North Central allows 12 points per game. Both teams have top-five rushing attacks, with the Cardinals averaging 333.1 yards on the ground and the Blazers averaging 289.9 yards.

Key to the game

Like with Delta State, quarterback accuracy is vital for Belhaven to pull off the upset. With accuracy practically guaranteed from the Cardinals’ Luke Lehnen, TimJohnson will have to match the energy and have his most accurate game of the season. Although the best all-around signal caller in Belhaven history, accuracy has not been his strong suit this season at 56% which is No. 130 in the nation. Expect the rushing attack and defense for Belhaven to play the best game it can against the juggernaut that is North Central.

Where: Naperville, Ill.

When: 12 p.m. CT

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