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Valdosta St. 38, Albany, Ga. 28

November 24, 1996

VALDOSTA, Ga. (AP) _ Sean Pender returned the opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and Lance Funderburk passed for two scores, leading Valdosta State to a 38-28 victory over Albany State in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday.

The Blazers (10-2) overcame a 21-16 halftime deficit to advance to a second-round game against Carson-Newman, which eliminated West Georgia 41-7 Saturday in Tennessee.

The Blazers built a 14-0 lead in the first four minutes before the Rams (8-3) came back to a 14-14 tie on Purvis Jackson’s 51-yard scoring pass to Antonio Leroy and a 15-yard run by Jackson.

After Valdosta got a safety when Albany State snapped the ball out of the end zone in a punting situation, the Rams took a 21-16 halftime lead on Jackson’s 63-yard pass to Vincent Huff.

The Blazers reclaimed the lead on their first second-half possession when Funderburk hit Nikko Cooper with a 10-yard scoring strike for a 24-21 lead.

Valdosta State made it 30-21 on an 8-yard run by Carlos Brown early in the fourth quarter before the Rams got close again at 30-28 on a 44-yarder from Jackson to Huff.

Valdosta State built their final margin on Brown’s 1-yard run with 2:18 to play.

Jackson made the most of four completions, throwing for 173 yards and three TDs. Funderburk, the South’s finalist for the 1996 Harlon Hill trophy, was 17 of 32 for 200 yards and two scores but was intercepted twice in the second half.

Leroy, averaging 138 yards a game rushing, had 135 yards on 30 carries while Valdosta State fullback Vontrell Mitchell ran for 121 yards on 23 carries.

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