Winston-Salem State is the trying to become the first HBCU to win a Division II championship.
Winston-Salem State spotted New Haven a seven-point lead and then stormed to a 27-7 home victory in the quarterfinals of the Division II playoffs.
The Rams (13-0) advanced to the Division II semifinals for the first time since 1978. They will host Wayne State Saturday, with the winner advancing to the championship game Dec. 17 in Florence, Alabama. The Rams are the trying to become the first HBCU to win a Division II championship and the first to win an NCAA football title at any level since Florida A&M won the inaugural I-AA (now FCS) crown in 1978.
The Rattlers are also the last HBCU to reach the playoff semifinals. They lost to Youngstown State 27-24 in the 1999 IAA semifinals.
The Rams’ defense throttled New Haven (11-2), forcing four turnovers. They held the high-scoring Chargers 36 points below their average for the season. The Rams also limited New Haven to 330 total yards, 100 yards under their season average.
Winston-Salem put New Haven away with a balanced offense. Nic Cooper rushed for 132 yards on 14 carries; quarterback Kameron Snith completed 19 of 26 passes for 274 yards and two touchdowns. Smith threw touchdown passes of 48 and 33 yards to Jameze Massey, who had six catches for 138 yards.
New Haven quarterback Ryan Osiecki entered the game having thrown for 3,127 yards and 35 touchdowns. He threw for 209 yards a touchdown – a 36-yard toss to Demetrius Washington-Ellison that gave the Chargers a 7-6 lead midway through the first quarterback. The Rams sacked Osiecki three times and kept him under heavy pressure the entire game.
“They have a great quarterback and a great offense, but great defenses can stop great offenses, and that’s what happened today,” Winston-Salem coach Connell Maynor said. “We got pressure on the quarterback and made some plays. He was running around with his head chopped off throwing the ball all over the place, and that comes from pressure. The defense played a great, great game.”
Johnson C. Smith 35, Miles 33: The Golden Bulls rallied from an early 10-0 lead to win the 13th Pioneer Bowl at A.J. McClung Memorial Stadium in Columbus, Georgia. The win was the second in a row for the CIAA against the SIAC in the game that pits representatives from the NCAA’s two black conferences against each other. The SIAC leads the series 9-4.
Miles (7-5), which this season won its first SIAC championship in school history, appeared to be well on the way to continuing the conference Pioneer Bowl dominance after Patton Chambers booted 35-yard field goal and quarterback David Thomas threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Vondragus Hudson. However, Johnson C. Smith (6-5), the third-place team in the CIAA South Division, stormed back to take a 28-13 lead.
Miles staged a rally of its own, with 14 unanswered points that trimmed the Golden Bulls’ lead to 28-27 with 7:02 left in the game.
The Golden Bears responded with a 12-play, 72-yard scoring drive that ended with Dedric Anderson 24-yard touchdown to keep Miles at bay. Johnson C. Smith took 5:47 off the clock, and it seemed that the Golden Bulls had secured the victory with only 1:22 showing on the clock.
However, Miles scored with two seconds to spare as Thomas connected with Antonio Pitts on a 21-yard touchdown pass. The Golden Bears’ two-point conversion attempt failed as Thomas’ pass was incomplete, and Johnson C. Smith walked away with the victory, which gave the Golden Bulls their most wins since 2006 with their 7-4 record and loss to Tuskegee in the Pioneer Bowl.
“To finish our season with a win is really big,” Johnson C. Smith coach Steven Aycock said. “This is something we’ve been driving for since we started offseason workouts in January. The kids really believe in what we’re trying to do here, and the coaching staff has put these kids in situations where we can win.”
Miles fell short in its attempt to set a school record for victories in a season after winning seven games for the first time since 2004.
“Our kids worked hard. and we did what we needed to do to get back in the game,” first-year Miles coach Reginald Ruffin, the SIAC Coach of the Year, said. ‘We fought hard to the end, and that’s all I can ask of them.”
Thomas was named Player of the Game after completing 16 of 27 passes for 267 and three touchdowns and rushing for 103 yards. Johnson C. Smith quarterback Keahn Wallace, who was 8 for 17 with 59 yards and rushed 22 times for another 37 yards and three touchdowns, was named the game’s Most Valuable Player.