Head football coaches and sports information directors in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) have picked two-time defending champion Winston-Salem State to again meet two-time consecutive runners-up Bowie State in the 2017 conference Football Championship Game in November.
That was the determination unveiled at the CIAA Football Media Day at the Sheraton Hotel and Convention Center last Thursday.
Southern Division champion Winston-Salem State and Northern Division champ Bowie State staged an old fashioned shootout last season at nearby Salem Stadium with the Rams prevailing 43-33. WSSU also defeated Bowie State 17-14 in the 2015 title game held in Durham, N.C.
The two were selected to win their respective divisions this season for the third straight time.
“We have a great nucleus coming back,” said WSSU head coach Kienus Boulware, who signed a four-year extension in December after winning back-to-back championships. “Job security is wonderful but it’s also an opportunity to do what we love to do, which is coach the game, but most importantly, to try and guide some young men.”
Fayetteville State was the second pick in the South with Saint Augustine’s third. Virginia State, who battled Bowie State and Virginia Union down to the last game of the regular season for the North Division crown, was picked second with VUU third.
“The bottom line is we lost,” said Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson of his Bulldogs coming up short in the title game. “We’ve got to get better, learn from our mistakes. That’s how you turn this thing around. That’s what we have to do.”
In last year’s championship game at Salem (Va.) Stadium, WSSU and BSU combined for 1,076 yards of total offense. BSU amassed 610 yards including a passing attack led by all-CIAA quarterback Amir Hall that accounted for 457 yards and three touchdowns.
WSSU countered with 272 rushing yards led by 177 on 22 carries by tailback Kerrion Moore including a 68-yard TD scamper. The Rams also got three touchdown passes from quarterback Rod Tinsley, all covering more than 35 yards.
The game featured seven scoring plays of over 30 yards, three of 50 yards or better including an 87-yard kickoff return. The title tilt turned on WSSU getting four BSU turnovers while only turning the ball over once.
The 6-4, 180-pound Hall, who passed for 3,596 yards and 30 TDs (and 15 interceptions) last season to top the league, returns to Bowie State for his junior season and is joined by three other teammates on the preseason all-CIAA offense – linemen Victor Tamba and Daris Johnson and 1,000-yard rusher Robert Chesson (1,128 yards, 11 TDs).
“I’ve been working on my footwork, I’ve been in the weight room trying to get stronger anything I can do to get better and help my team win,” said Hall.
Moore (1,059 rushing yards, 9 TDs) and Tinsley (1,773 passing yards, 18 TDs, 8 ints.) are back for WSSU but neither was selected to the preseason all-conference team. The Rams also return a near 1,000-yard rusher in senior Te’Vaughn Hurse (917 yds., 5 TDs.)
“It’s running back by committee,” said Boulware. “It’s hard to pass the test at running back without a good offensive line. So we focus a lot on a good offensive line.” Two WSSU linemen, Tim Samuels and Josh Wormley, were among those selected to the preseason team.
The league returns two other 1,000-yard rushers. 2017 all-CIAA running back Trenton Cannon of Virginia State ran for 1,214 yards and a league-best 18 TDs a year ago. Fayetteville State tailback Steve Green ran for 1,150 yards and 6 TDs last year as a freshman.
The Rams had two selectees on defense, lineman Jarrel Bright and linebacker Jayron Rankin. BSU landed just one player on the defense, cornerback Rahman Kamara.
The standout defender the preseason team is Johnson C. Smith senior safety Carlo Thomas. Thomas led all of NCAA Div. II football as a sophomore in interceptions with 12 and came back last year as a junior to lead the CIAA with 7 picks and finish second nationally. He is on several preseason Div. II all-America squads.
Conference officials and organizers can only hope for another exciting title game this year.
The 2017 championship game is scheduled for Nov. 11 back at Salem Stadium after the league signed a three-year deal last month to keep the game in the Roanoke Valley.