By Mark F. Gray
AFRO Staff Writer
Two years ago Bowie State was shackled by the same championship ghosts that surround Fayetteville State. The Bulldogs had proven they were clearly the best team in their division, but couldn’t win the championship game after multiple trips.
After beating the Broncos in the 2018 CIAA Championship it was time for BSU to take its official place among the great dynasties in conference history if they could finish the conference schedule with a perfect record and another title.
No. 11 Bowie State University won their second consecutive CIAA Football Championship with a 23-7 win over Fayetteville State 23-7 and finished the regular season undefeated at 11-0.
“It’s a great feeling winning the conference championship this year against a tough Fayetteville State program, said Bowie State head coach Damon Wilson. “Our guys did an outstanding job this year handling adversity and staying focused on winning each day at practice.”
Nearly three decades removed from a winless season, BSU earned a berth into the NCAA Division II playoffs for the third straight year. The Bulldogs (11-0) will host Carson-Newman University (8-2) on Nov. 23 and mark the third straight season Bowie State will serve as host of a national tournament game. Last year they won their first Division II postseason football game ever, 41-35 over West Alabama.
“We have put ourselves in position and earned another home game, said Wilson, a one-time all-CIAA tight end when he played at Bowie State. “This is great for the university and the Bowie community. We are looking forward to the challenge this week versus Carson-Newman. They have a very talented group and we must be physical up front on both sides of the ball.”
For a team that scored 60 points against Lincoln and Elizabeth City State in their previous two games, the final score didn’t tell the full story of how the game played out. BSU’s CIAA Players of the Year stepped up when they needed them.
Sophomore Demetri Morsell, who was named CIAA Defensive Player of the Year, set the tone early. After senior Juantez McRae forced an FSU fumble on the game’s opening possession, Morsell returned it for a 33-yard touchdown at the 14:14 mark of the first quarter to give the Bulldogs the early lead they would never relinquish. Later in the quarter redshirt senior Adam Gillis Jr. scored what later proved to be the game winner on a 16-yard touchdown run with 8:47 remaining to give Bowie State an insurmountable 14-0 lead.
Bowie State’s defense emerged from the shadows of its more heralded offense to dominate the championship game. Sophomore Joshua Pryor, who led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles and three sacks was named Bowie State’s Player of the Game.
Meanwhile junior quarterback Ja’rome Johnson was unspectacularly efficient. The CIAA Offensive Player of the Year led the victorious Bulldogs offensively with 127 rushing yards on 12 carries with one touchdown and added 90 passing yards.
McRae came back late in the fourth quarter to seal the victory. He intercepted a pass at the Fayetteville State 19-yard line and returned it for what appeared to be a Bowie State touchdown. However, during the return, the Bulldogs were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after he high stepped into the end zone and the ball was placed on FSU 29-yard line. On Bowie State’s first play after the penalty, Johnson scored on a quarterback keeper to allow the championship celebration and dynasty coronation to begin.