Winston-Salem faces Valdosta State for D-2 title
No. 2 Winston-Salem State has already gone deeper into the
playoffs than any other team from the Central Intercollegiate
Athletic Conference. Now, the Rams are a win away from making
history for black college football, too.
They face two-time national champion Valdosta State Saturday
hoping to become the first HBCU team to win Division II’s football
”That’s a huge deal. For our conference, the HBCUs , to have a
chance to play for a national championship and be the first one to
win one, is a steppingstone,” Winston-Salem State coach Connell
Maynor said. ”It’s a great opportunity for us. We’re happy to be
here carrying the flag for the CIAA and HBCU. It’d be a great thing
if we could pull it off Saturday.”
The only other HBCU team to make the championship game, Central
State of Ohio, lost 41-21 to North Dakota State in 1983.
Winston-Salem (14-0) is also trying to become just the fifth
team to go 15-0.
Standing in the way is a Valdosta State team seeking its first
title since 2007, David Dean’s debut season as head coach.
Winston-Salem is in its third season since aborting a Division I
move for financial reasons. The program’s former status is just one
more reason for Valdosta State (11-2), which ended the regular
season ranked 17th, to keep the underdog mentality that formed with
a rough start.
”The fact that they haven’t been Division II for very long and
they’ve got a lot of Division I players, that automatically puts us
as the underdog,” Blazers quarterback Cayden Cochran said.
”That’s something we welcomed since we were 2-2 and teams kind of
wrote us off and fans of other teams kind of wrote us off.
”It kind of helps us, gives us a little extra push to know that
there are people in the stands that don’t think we can do it.”
Winston-Salem won its last eight regular season games by at
least 19 points and had only one tight playoff game, a 21-17 win
over Indiana, Pa., in the quarterfinals. Yet Smith, like his
Valdosta State counterpart, feels his team does not get enough
”Even though we’ve played as good as we have, some people still
have doubted us,” said Smith, who has passed for 3,043 yards with
42 touchdowns against nine interceptions. ”That makes us want to
come out and play even harder just to prove people wrong.”
He’s got several dangerous targets. Jahuann Butler has 1,167
receiving yards, Jameze Massey 1,156 and Jamal Williams757. All
three have caught at least 12 touchdown passes.
Winston-Salem is ninth nationally in total offense and Valdosta
Winston-Salem’s defense and Valdosta State’s offense have easily
handled big challenges in the playoffs.
The Blazers racked up 525 yards against West Alabama and
Division II’s No. 5 defense and gained 498 against Minnesota
State-Makato, which had the third-rated defense.
The Rams held West Texas A&M’s Harlon Hill Trophy finalist
Dustin Vaughan to 169 passing yards in a 41-18 semifinals
Valdosta State’s Cochran has passed for 2,506 yards with
receivers Gerald Ford (1,018) and Seantavious Jones (916) hovering
near 1,000 yards. Both have caught 13 touchdown passes.
Winston-Salem counters with a defense allowing just 89 rushing
yards a game and ranking eighth in points allowed (16.1 per
”They’re probably one of the fastest teams that we have faced
all year long,” Valdosta State’s Dean said. ”They’re tremendously
athletic. Their defensive line has very good pass rushers, which
can cause us problems as much as we throw the football.”