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Samford football head coach Chris Hatcher’s steadfast approach of each week being its own season took a short break — 120 seconds, to be exact — on Monday. Clinching a Southern Conference football championship, on the road, against a team that had a stranglehold on the series between the two schools, will do that.
“If you look back, it was a special time,” Hatcher said. “You could feel the energy in our team meeting on Monday. We actually had a two-minute pit stop, to talk about where we’re at, before getting back to where we’re going.”
Where Samford is at is on top of the Southern Conference football standings for the first time since sharing the crown with Furman and Chattanooga in 2013 and only the second time since joining the conference in 2008. Hatcher, who has been a SoCon head coach for 11 seasons, with three coming at Georgia Southern, is part of a SoCon championship for the first time. It’s been longer than that since he had a championship team.
“I got my first job (at Valdosta State) when I was 26, we won I think four straight conference championships in the Gulf South Conference,” Hatcher said. “I thought it was pretty easy, 18 years later I’m part of a championship team again. We’re very excited.”
Samford is coming off perhaps its best game of the season, especially if you consider what was at stake, the opponent and the venue. Hatcher had never beaten Chattanooga while at Samford, the Bulldogs were 10-33-3 lifetime against the Moc and Samford hadn’t won in Chattanooga since 2008. Each of those things were erased with the 35-24 victory.
“It was pretty special,” Hatcher said. “I thought our guys deserve every accolade that comes their way. That was a huge win, especially going on the road, against a caliber of team that Chattanooga has. Take your hat off to those guys, they’ve got a great team. It’s a team that, quite frankly, had Samford’s number, even before I got here. To do it in that atmosphere, made it even a little bit better.”
The Bulldogs still have plenty to play for, beginning with Saturday’s regular-season finale against SoCon foe Mercer. While Samford has wrapped up the conference’s automatic playoff bid, the Bulldogs still have work to do before the postseason begins.
In the FCS playoffs, the top eight seeds receive a bye in the first-round games, which are scheduled for Nov. 26. With a win on Saturday, Samford’s resume – 10-1 record with the lone loss coming at Georgia – would give the Bulldogs a legitimate shot at being seeded. A loss on Saturday would probably put the Bulldogs into the first round.
However, don’t expect Hatcher and his team to spend any time this week worrying about those details. Hatcher has other concerns.
“I still don’t think we’ve played the best we can play,” Hatcher said. “I do think that each week we’ve gotten better. Championship teams I’ve been on before, that’s how they did it. They get a little better each and every week. We come off two subpar seasons headed up to here. Our guys, they work hard, they’re professionals in everything they do. They show up and play. We’re very excited, but, again, I reiterate, we still have a long ways to go.”
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