UNA-West Alabama game even bigger than usual - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

UNA-West Alabama game even bigger than usual

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(AP) -- The traditional game of the year for both North Alabama and West Alabama has become even bigger.

When UNA (5-2, 3-1 Gulf South Conference) takes on UWA (6-2, 4-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday in Florence, there will be more than just bragging rights at stake for these long-time rivals. They are also competing for the GSC championship and a berth in the Division II playoffs.

"This is probably the first time in the history of this series that a regular-season game has had so much on the line," UNA coach Bobby Wallace said. "That is a compliment to what has been done at West Alabama over the last several years, and to what we've been able to do to start getting our program back to where we want to be."

UNA holds a commanding 48-17-1 lead in the series, but the Tigers have won two of the past three. In addition, UWA is in sole possession of first place in the GSC and is ranked No. 20 in Division II, while the Lions are unranked.

Still, UWA coach Will Hall said there remains an underdog perception about his team when it comes to playing North Alabama.

"They think they are better than us. Their people think they are better than us," Hall said of UNA. "They have thought that way for a long time and they act that way. We have to win this game for our people. We play this game for our people and our university."

The Lions have won four consecutive games since a 1-2 start, outscoring their opponents 185-45 in those victories.

"There is no question that our turnaround is a sign of great leadership on this team," Wallace said. "We have continued to improve each of the last five weeks and have really grown as a team."

The Tigers have won five of their past six games and are coming off a convincing 45-14 victory over West Georgia. But Hall said nothing his team has experienced so far this season can compare to playing UNA.

"This week is like an addiction. When it is over, you wish you could go back and do it again," Hall said. "You just can't get enough of it. It's intoxicating, it really is.

"It's going to be a phenomenal atmosphere and we can't wait to get up there and play. We talk about this week all year long. It's a huge game in a great venue and we are excited about it. It will be arguably the biggest game in the long history of this rivalry."