FLORENCE, Ala. — 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 national title.
"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.