The HBCU football season has ended following a spectacular Celebration Bowl that saw North Carolina Central defeat Jackson State to win the Black National Championship.
If this year was any indication, there is a lot to be excited about in the future with many teams and players breaking the mold and putting their competitors on notice going forward.
Let’s put a bow on the year by looking at the five takeaways from the HBCU football season.
Season of firsts
No one embodied the season of firsts theme more than the Benedict Tigers, who stockpiled a list of them. The accomplishments included the first undefeated regular season in school history, the first SIAC championship win, and a Division II playoff berth.
North Carolina Central’s first-ever Celebration Bowl win over Jackson State gave them their first 10-win season since re-joining the MEAC in 2010.
No position shined more in HBCU football than running backs with several players having breakout years.
Virginia Union’s Jada Byers was arguably the best individual player in all of Division II football this season. He led the country in rushing (1,928), and all-purpose yards per game (205.1), as well as tying for sixth in rushing touchdowns (19).
Fort Valley State back and SIAC Offensive Player of the Year Emanuel Wilson became the first Wildcats player to rush for 1,000 yards in 18 years.
North Carolina A&T running back Bhayshul Tuten recorded 10-straight 100-yard games setting a new program single-season record that led to a spot on the All-Big South First Team.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff back Kayvon Britten impressed in his first full season as the Golden Lions’ starter leading the SWAC in rushing touchdowns. He was named to the All-SWAC Second Team.
Morgan State’s Alfonzo Graham put the MEAC on notice that the Bears are a team to be reckoned with in the future. He led the conference in rushing (1,150) and was named to the All-MEAC First Team.
There were several teams that made notable improvements from last season.
SIAC champion Benedict’s first-ever perfect regular season was preceded by a moderate year in which they finished with a 5-5 record.
Alcorn State running back Jarveon Howard came to the Braves from Syracuse to lead the SWAC in rushing (1,275) and was named SWAC Newcomer of the Year to go along with an All-SWAC First Team selection.
Benedict defensive end Loobert Denelus played spectacularly in his second season with the team from Southeastern University. He was named SIAC Defensive Player of the Year playing a huge role in the team finishing the regular season undefeated and winning its first-ever SIAC championship.
Delaware State transfer Sy’Veon Wilkerson provided balance to a pass-heavy Jackson State offense. He played a major role in the Tigers winning its second straight SWAC championship.