By Steven J. Gaither
A year after its season ended prematurely, Virginia State can now call itself CIAA Champions. VSU came away with 21-17 win over Winston-Salem State to claim its eleventh CIAA title, and its first since 1996.
Quarterback Niko Johnson, subbing for suspended Tarian Ayers, earned Most Valuable Player honors for Virginia State. Starting his first-ever college football game, Johnson completed 12 of 19 passes for 125 yards and rushed for 76, including a game-winning touchdown run.
Johnson was at his best when his team needed him the most, hitting running back Kavon Bellamy with a 38 yard pass on third-and-seven and rushing for the game-winning touchdown from 22 yards out to seal the win.
Winston-Salem State dug itself into a hole early and never quite got its feet back under it. VSU scored its first touchdown of the game off a 62 yard fumble recovery from Dontrell Jones. WSSU got its first lead of the game with 5:48 remaining in the fourth quarter on a 29 yard field goal by Wil Johnson before Johnson’s late-game heroics sealed the game.
The win breaks WSSU’s dominance against CIAA competition, as it had won 32 straight against conference competition. It will have to wait to see if its season will continue as it hopes from an at-large bid.
Virginia State (9-2) extends its win streak to nine straight games.