Fayetteville State will be in pursuit of its first CIAA championship since 2009 when they face Chowan, the only non-HBCU program in the conference.
These two teams previously met in the regular season, with the Broncos taking home the 13-10 victory. This is the second time since 2011 (Winston-Salem State and Elizabeth City State) that championship game opponents have also met in the regular season.
Fayetteville State finished the regular season with an 8-2 overall record, including a 7-1 record in conference play. This will be the Broncos’ fifth straight appearance in the conference title game, becoming the first team to accomplish the feat in over 20 years.
Fayetteville State wants to finally break through
The common denominator in the Broncos four previous title losses was their inability to stop the run on defense. In those matchups, FSU allowed an average of 222.3 rushing yards and nine total rushing touchdowns.
In the regular season meeting against Chowan, the Broncos allowed the Hawks to run for 186 rushing yards although they were able to keep them out of the endzone. Limiting the Hawks’ success on the ground will be a key to Fayetteville State getting over the hump.
The Broncos had the best overall defense in the CIAA this season allowing only 12.8 points per game, including 11.8 in conference play. They also had the best third-down defense and the best red zone defense in the CIAA.
What to know about the Hawks
Chowan is making its first-ever conference championship appearance since joining the CIAA in 2009. They finished the regular season 7-3 record, including a 7-1 record against the CIAA.
The Hawks catapulted themselves into the championship game due in large part to their 26-21 upset victory over the previously undefeated Virginia Union Panthers.
Their defense held CIAA Offensive Player of the Year favorite Jada Byers to a conference-low 109 rushing yards and without a touchdown for the only time all season.
Chowan also has a strong defense that led the CIAA in total sacks (38) and ranked third in interceptions (14). Meanwhile, on offense, the Hawks were among the top run teams in the conference, recording 172.2 rushing yards per game.
Players to Watch
QB Demari Daniels
Filling in for the team’s previous starter halfway through the season, freshman quarterback Demari Daniels provided some much-needed playmaking to the Broncos’ offense. In five games, Daniels completed 63% of his passes and threw six touchdown passes without an interception. He was also effective in the run game, averaging just under four yards per carry and rushing for two TDs.
DE Devin Cowan
The junior will play a key role in the Fayetteville State Broncos plan to stop Chowan’s run game. Cowan was one of the top defensive linemen in the CIAA this season recording 14 tackles for loss, 8 sacks, and two forced fumbles, ranking in the top five in each category. He arguably had his best game against Chowan with 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.
RB Tyrek McNeil
While Nijere Peoples was Chowan’s leading rusher, junior Tyrek McNeil may be the more important player in the Hawks’ backfield. McNeil is not only dangerous running the ball but he can also make plays in the passing game. His impact was felt in the Hawks first game against Fayetteville State posting 57 rushing yards on eight attempts and 78 receiving yards on six receptions.
DB Caleb Hester
Chowan has a number of critical players throughout its defense that could potentially make a big impact. However, sophomore defensive back Caleb Hester takes precedence because of what he could do on special teams. In addition to recording eight pass breakups — third most in the CIAA — he also blocked four kicks, one of which was returned for a touchdown.
Fayetteville State 21-14