Salem Stadium hosts CIAA Championship

Bowie State three-peats, beating Fayetteville State 17-7
Bowie State Bulldogs roll out on the field at Salem Stadium for the game against Fayetteville State, Saturday, Nov. 13, 2021. – Photos by Shawn Nowlin

by Lut Williams, BCSP Editor

SALEM, VA – It was a great day for football weatherwise. Tailgaters as well as fans took full advantage as this year’s CIAA Championship resumed in full form at Salem Stadium, Saturday (11/13).

One fan, April Clark, remembers going with her parents to see HBCU marching bands and cheerleaders compete against each other.

Last Saturday, Clark, 44, brought her teenage daughter to the game, primarily so the two could bond over the action not on the field. Both ultimately agreed that while the BSU cheerleaders displayed more enthusiasm, the FSU cheerleaders were more coordinated. The story of CIAA athletics in recent years can’t be told without the City of Salem. In addition to the football title, the championship city has also hosted youth clinics, cross country meets and more.

As the victors, Bowie State has now met Fayetteville State in the last three CIAA Football Championship Games at the stadium. With its 17-7 win Saturday afternoon, BSU has now prevailed for the third straight time.

The Bulldogs (10-1) pulled off the trifecta by jumping on the Broncos (8-2) early, scoring two first quarter touchdowns that proved to be enough as they held the Broncos (8-2) to just one third-quarter touchdown en route to the win. Bowie State added a fourth-quarter field goal, its only second-half points, for the final margin.

There were some anxious moments however for BSU after FSU scored its only touchdown with :35 seconds left in the third quarter. That score came on a 26-yard pass from FSU QB Khari Lane to Braxton Knotts after a nine-play, 76-yard drive. It cut the BSU lead to 14-7.

After the kickoff, FSU stopped the Bulldogs on a three-and-out and took over at its own 26 after a punt. A momentum shift seemed to be in the offing.

Bowie State cheerleaders pump it up sending the Bulldogs to victory over the Broncos.

That perception was even more evident on a second-down play from the FSU 28. Lane hit Ke’Mo Stockdale on a short pass over the middle and the big tight end threw off two would-be tacklers to carry the ball down to the BSU 36. He was hit there by BSU defensive back Myles Woolfolk and appeared to lose control of the ball.

The ruling on the field was that Stockdale was down by contact. But after a long review, officials ruled that he had fumbled with BSU’s Tevin Singleton recovering. That literally took all the air out of FSU’s comeback attempt.

The teams exchanged punts with BSU getting the ball on the FSU 29 after a 14-yard punt from FSU’s Jacob Young, Six plays later, BSU placekicker Alen Omerhodzic kicked thru a 33-yard field goal.

Fayetteville State and head coach Richard Hayes Jr. had lost the previous two title games to BSU by 30-10 and 23-7 scores and were hoping to generate more offense this time around. His squad outgained BSU 298 yards to 282, but could only push across the one score.

“The turnovers killed us,” said Hayes whose team also lost another fourth-quarter fumble in BSU territory with under two minutes left. “That’s 11 (turnovers) in four games (FSU championship game appearances under Hayes). You’re never going to win a championship like that. We harped on it all week, talked about it, worked drills for it. But second effort, third effort – kids trying to make plays – I’ll never knock them for that.”

Bronco’s defensive back Brandon Barnes-Brown, #10 positions to engage Bulldogs ballcarier.

BSU’s all-CIAA running back Calil Wilkins was the offensive star and was named the game’s offensive MVP. He totaled 163 rushing yards on 25 carries and got the Bulldogs off to a great start.

He had runs of 23 and 6 yards in BSU’s first two plays from scrimmage after the Broncos stopped FSU with a three-and-out in the game’s opening drive.

BSU QB Ja’rome Johnson then hit Kwincy Hall on a 25-yard pass before connecting with Quron Winder with a 10-yard pass for the game’s opening score. The drive covered 68 yards in four plays. After Omerhodzic’s PAT, Bowie State led 7-0 with just over three minutes gone.

FSU picked up one first down in its next drive before punting again. BSU gave the ball right back as Johnson was picked off at his own 45. But FSU went backwards, suffering a sack and penalty before punting the ball back to BSU.

Starting at its own 34, the Bulldogs mixed passes from Johnson with Wilkins’ runs to drive 66 yards in 12 plays taking nearly six minutes off the clock. On a scramble, Johnson found Victor Olayinka in the back of the end zone :45 seconds before the end of the first quarter for a 14-0 BSU lead.

After a scoreless second quarter, BSU took that 14-0 lead into the break. It stayed that way until FSU’s late third-quarter score.

“We started off fast but we hit a little stale place offensively late in the second quarter but all-in-all, a good win,” said victorious head coach Damon Wilson whose team will now advance to next week’s NCAA Div. II playoffs.

“We’re excited about it,” Wilson said. “The defense played well enough and the special teams held up enough to win the ball game.”

In pairings announced Sunday, Bowie State will host a first round NCAA Div. II playoff game vs. Lenoir-Rhyne (8-2) on Saturday. The Bulldogs are seeded second in Super Region II behind top-seed Valdosta State in the 28-team playoff field.