By MARK F. GRAY, Staff Writer, [email protected]
Finally, Bowie State got to play the role of bride after being the bridesmaid three of the last four years. The Bulldogs left no doubt who was the best team in the CIAA this year with a resounding 30-10 victory over Fayetteville State in Salem, Va. to win the 2018 CIAA Football Championship.
The Bulldogs played their most complete game of the year with the most pressure on them. Twenty three seniors came into the game after the most prolific era in the era of the program and all that was left was for them was to bring the trophy back to Prince George’s County. In past years Bowie State opened the championship game playing tight and digging themselves a hole that was too deep to climb out of.
However, this time they started fast and never looked back. With help from a Fayetteville State team that played with a lack of confidence after their regular season ending loss to Winston Salem State, Bowie State opened a 21-3 halftime lead and were never threatened.
“Its an incredible feeling to bring the championship back to my alma mater,” BSU coach Damon Wilson told the AFRO.
For a team that has been known throughout the nation for an offense that produced fantasy football numbers with the reigning HBCU national player of the year Amir Hall at the helm, it was BSU’s defense and special teams that got things rolling and they never looked back. Fayetteville fumbled the opening kickoff and again on their first drive leading to the 14 unanswered points that put them ahead for good.
Hall, Bowie State’s all-American quarterback who owns every passing record in school history, showed his versatility that apparently caught the Broncos off guard. Hall used his legs, that were finally healthy, and bludgeoned Fayetteville’s defense with long runs that exposed their defense before he started his passing assault.
The Bulldogs opened a 14-0 first quarter lead on the legs of their quarterback. Hall capped their drive following the opening kickoff with a 14-yard touchdown run that put them up for good. However, on a day where Hall would ultimately become the CIAA’s all-time passing leader, his legs would bury the Broncos by the end of the first half.
After BSU’s Oluwaleke Ajenifuja forced the strip sack and the recovery to give the Bulldogs’ offense the ball at the 19-yd line, deep in Fayetteville State territory, Hall cashed in once again. His six yard run put them up 14-0 and proved ultimately to be the game winner. Hall broke the Broncos’ back late in the second quarter with an 80-yard touchdown run and the rout was on before he got into a passing rhythm.
Hall was pedestrian by the lofty standards of his career. He only passed for 180 yards and one touchdown but that was enough to make history. The Bowie State quarterback passed North Carolina Central’s legendary signal caller Earl “Air” Harvey for first place all-time passing list in the fourth quarter as the coronation began on the Bowie State sideline.
Now for the second consecutive season the Bulldogs will host an NCAA national playoff game on campus. Bowie State will open the Division II Tournament as a number four seed and will face West Alabama the number five seed to kick off their potential run at the national championship.
“We played all types of offenses and defenses this season, so we’ll be prepared for the challenge,” said Wilson.
Wilson joins men’s basketball coach Darrell Brooks as former Bowie State athletes who have won CIAA titles as alumni coaches.