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Former Mt. Zion and Stockbridge players help lead Valdosta State to national title game

From Wire Reports

CALIFORNIA, Pa. - Former Mt. Zion standout Maurice Leggett intercepted a pass in the end zone with 56 seconds remaining in the game to help Valdosta State defeat unbeaten California University of Pennsylvania 28-24 in an NCAA Division II semifinal game Saturday.

Leggett's pick came on a second-and-goal toss from Vulcans' quarterback Joe Ruggiero.

No. 8 Valdosta St. (12-1) will play Northwest Missouri State, which beat Grand Valley State 34-16, for the national championship Dec. 15 in Florence, Ala.

No. 6 California (13-1), which led 21-7 in the third quarter, ended the regular season undefeated for the first time since going 8-0 in 1958.

The Blazers scored first early in the second quarter when Clay Callaway caught a 14-yard scoring pass from Stockbridge graduate Willie Copeland.

Ruggiero threw the next three touchdown, a 13-yard pass to Nate Forse, a 2-yard toss to Cory Garver to make it 14-7 at the half, and a 3-yard pass to Garver early in the third quarter.

Valdosta State made it 21-14 after quarterback Copeland rushed for a 3-yard touchdown, and then tied the score on a Copeland-to-Josh Rayam 3-yard touchdown pass.

A 46-yard Tyler Lorenz field goal made it 24-21 for the Vulcan,s and they kept the lead until the Blazers capped off a five-play, 60-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Copeland to Zach Parker with 3:13 remaining in the game.

Copeland completed 25 of 44 passes for 203 yards. Ruggiero was 23-of-36 for 230 yards. He was sacked three times.

The Vulcans, who amassed a total of 624 yards on the ground in their previous two games, were held to 86 rushing yards by the Blazers.

Valdosta State is trying to win its second NCAA Division II title.