Dylan Donahue’s journey began in his home state of Montana and took him to California before he arrived at West Georgia.
Alex Armah took a more direct path from Dacula.
As one of the top pass-rushing tandems in Division II, the West Georgia duo now takes much shorter trips through opposing backfields, where they often meet at the quarterback.
Donahue leads the Gulf South Conference with 12 sacks, followed by Armah, who has eight, heading into West Georgia’s Division II semifinal at Northwest Missouri State at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s awesome to have another end like Alex, who has my back when I make mistakes, and I have his if he makes one,” Donahue said. “We’re also getting a tremendous rush from the inside guys who push the pocket. If the quarterback tries to escape, we’ll be right there.”
Donahue and Armah will target Northwest Missouri State quarterback Brady Bolles, who has thrown for 3,513 yards and 27 touchdowns this season for one of the premier programs in Division II.
The Bearcats (13-0) have won four national championships (1998, 1999, 2009 and 2013) and have advanced to the playoffs for 12 consecutive seasons.
They were ranked No. 1 in the final American Football Coaches Association poll and won their first two playoff games by an average of 34 points.
“From a Division II standpoint, they’re like Notre Dame,” West Georgia coach Will Hall said. “They’ve done so much that you can’t keep up with it all. It’s a great program.”
Northwest Missouri State leads Division II in scoring defense (11.9 points per game) and total defense (220.8 yards), followed by West Georgia in both categories (14.6 points and 238.1 yards).
The Wolves also allow only 139.4 yards passing, third in the country, thanks in part to the pressure generated by Donahue and Armah, and backups Chris Rabb, who transferred from UAB, Quenton Brown (Tucker) and DeMarcus Davis (Mary Persons).
“I just think we compete against each other, motivate each other and challenge each other to make the play on every play,” Armah said. “We never stop on the play.”
Armah, a 6-foot-2, 235-pound junior, signed with West Georgia out of Dacula, started as a freshman and had six sacks last season as the Wolves reached the semifinals. He was voted a team captain this season.
Donahue, 6-3, 235, on the other hand, took a more roundabout path.
He’s from Billings, Mont., and initially attended Montana Western, where he redshirted.
Donahue transferred to Palomar Junior College and hoped to sign with a FBS program until he learned he would have only one season of eligibility. He would have two left at a Division II school, so he signed with West Georgia.
“It’s about the size of my hometown, and I like how nice the people are,” Donahue said.
Donahue and Armah both have “explosive first steps,” Hall said, but Armah generally uses his strength in bull rushes, and Donahue uses his speed and quickness.
“Dylan is more of a run-by-you, swat-your-hands type of guy,” Armah said. “We both have different moves, depending on the play and where the offensive tackles line up.”
Donahue said: “We just want to make offenses do something they’re not comfortable doing. That’s worked out pretty well for us.”
Shorter All-American: Shorter safety Jordan Shaw (Pickens County), a former walk-on quarterback, was selected to the American Football Coaches Association Division II All-America team for the second consecutive season.
Shaw had 11 career interceptions and finished this season with 8.7 tackles per game. He returned a fumble for a touchdown in the regular season and was his team’s defensive MVP in the National Bowl, an all-star game for Division II and III players, last weekend.
Division II semifinal
West Georgia (12-1) at Northwest Missouri State (13-0), 3:30 p.m. Saturday