FLORENCE — It is now a one-game season for North Alabama.
The Lions saw their hopes of making the Division II playoffs disappear Saturday in a 38-28 loss to Tarleton State. UNA (5-4) will miss the playoffs for the first time since the 2004 season.
UNA is now playing for pride and for a winning season. To keep their streak of seven consecutive winning seasons alive the Lions must beat West Alabama (7-3) in Thursday night’s season finale.
“We just have to get ready in a short week to play this last game,” coach Bobby Wallace said. “Hopefully we can win it and have a winning season. We’ve accomplished a lot this season with a lot of young kids, but the last two games have been disappointing because we could have won them and didn’t.”
The Lions scored two touchdowns in the fourth quarter Saturday to rally for a 28-27 lead with 4:37 remaining. Tarleton State answered with a 75-yard drive in 10 plays to regain the lead and held on for the win.
With no realistic shot at making the playoffs, the Lions will have to find something else for motivation. Quarterback Luke Wingo said there will be no problem finding motivation against West Alabama.
“Whether it’s for a playoff spot or not, West Alabama is a big game,” Wingo said. “It’s a big rivalry and both sides are going to play hard no matter what is at stake. It’s big for us because we want to send our seniors off with a win.”
Junior cornerback Delvin Ervin said the Lions have a chance to prove something against West Alabama.
“This game is going to show what type of character we have,” Ervin said. “I expect us to come out and play hard because we’re not about to give up.”
Wallace also said this game will test the team’s character.
“If our guys are competitors they will they will come out and practice hard and be ready to play,” he said. “If they’re not, then we need to find others.”
West Alabama is also coming off a loss Saturday. Abilene Christian defeated the Tigers 22-16 in overtime. West Alabama has clinched a share of the Gulf South Conference title and can win the championship outright with a victory over UNA.
The Tigers are coached by former UNA quarterback and Harlon Hill Trophy winner Will Hall, now in his second season as head coach. Hall took over for Wallace, who was head coach at West Alabama from 2006-2010.
“They will be fired up because I’m here and I know that,” Wallace said. “Of course Will played here and there is obviously a lot of interaction here between the two programs. But the only thing that matters to me is winning the game and getting to six wins.”
Jeff McIntyre can be reached at 256-740-5737 or jeff.mcintyre@TimesDaily.com.