Saturday, December 16, 2017

North Carolina A&T: 2017 Celebration Bowl Champions

The 2017 Celebration Bowl must have felt like deja vu all over again for North Carolina A&T quarterback Lamar Raynard and running back Marquell Cartwright. Four years ago, when Cartwright and Raynard were at High Point Andrews, this same situation played out.

Raynard, who threw a 38-yard touchdown pass with 1:02 remaining for his high school’s North Carolina High School Athletic Association 2-AA title game, ran the ball in from 1 yard out to give the Aggies a 21-14 win over Grambling State on Saturday.

While Cartwright, who was awarded MVP honors in that state title game, won the Celebration Bowl’s Offensive Player of the Game award thanks to one rushing touchdown, one passing touchdown and 110 yards on the ground.

“We started together playing together in ninth grade,” Raynard said. “We decided to come to college together because we thought that we could do really great together. I just want to tip my hat to this guy, because they really tried to take the game away from my boy, and he came back and fought even harder. People who doubted him they said after Tariq left, we weren’t going to have a running game. … This guy right here, that’s my brother. We stay right down the street from each other. It’s a lot I could say. I’m going to keep it short, but I love him.”

It’s official. North Carolina A&T is no longer up-and-coming. The Aggies are a certified college football name brand. And they’re not taking a back seat to anybody. Anymore. Ever.

They came into Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium looking for respect as they prepared to battle the perennial historically black college football powerhouse Grambling. Now N.C. A&T will be heading back to Greensboro, North Carolina, as the Celebration Bowl champion for the second time in three years.

Raynard, the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) Offensive Player of the Year, was responsible for two more touchdowns in the Celebration Bowl, bringing his season total to 31 with multiple touchdowns in 10 of 12 games this season.

In winning the third annual Celebration Bowl and historically black college and university (HBCU) national championship, the Aggies also became the first MEAC football team to finish its season undefeated at 12-0. N.C. A&T did it twice before, but that was before the creation of the MEAC.

While Raynard scored the points that would ultimately put the team over the hump in a game they led from start to finish, it was Cartwright who carried N.C. A&T for much of the game. His receiving touchdown opened up the scoring and his touchdown on the ground were the only two scores the team had until 38 seconds remained in the game and Raynard found the end zone.

Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs must not have known how wise and insightful his answer was when he explained that the Tigers and N.C. A&T are essentially mirrors of each other’s program.

“I really didn’t [have any doubts.] I didn’t get very nervous today,” N.C. A&T coach Rod Broadway said. “I knew we was playing an outstanding football team, but I also knew we had an outstanding football team. We could’ve separated a little bit, if we had been a little bit better in the kicking game.”

Anything the Aggies did, Grambling State did almost the same thing and vice versa. The Tigers bench erupted when N.C. A&T’s Raynard threw an interception to Grambling’s De’Andre Hogues as the Aggies began to sniff Grambling’s red zone.

That euphoria lasted maybe a minute at most, as Tigers running back Martez Carter coughed up the ball following an eight-yard reception and N.C. A&T went right back into business from the Grambling 25. Five plays later and with 4:58 left in the half, fans at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium finally saw their first score of the game.

Three minutes and 15 seconds later, Fobbs’ team finally got itself on the board thanks to Kincade finding Jordan Jones for a two-yard touchdown pass to tie it up just before the half.

The Aggies worked themselves down the field with 2 seconds to spare for a field goal attempt, but the Grambling front blocked the kick. Similarly, the Tigers made their way into the Aggies red zone on their first drive of the second half, but a poorly placed Kincade pass was intercepted by Franklin McCain III in spectacular, one-hand, one-toe inbounds fashion.

The one thing both teams stressed was that the team who made the fewest mistakes was going to win the game. While Grambling finished with three turnovers, N.C. A&T ended the game with two, and a pair of missed field goals.

What this game truly came down to was who was going to make the most of the opportunities afforded to them, and without question that was the Aggies. One doesn’t have to love the Aggies. They don’t even care if y’all like them.

However, after this Celebration Bowl victory, y’all will respect them.

N.C. A&T had more success running between the tackles Saturday, averaging 2.3 yards before contact per rush. The Aggies’ Cartwright had more yards between the tackles (57) than Grambling had as a team.

Designed rushes inside tackles


Rushes 13 … 25

Yards 44 … 87

YBC per rush 0.9 … 2.3

Touchdowns 0 … 2

Grambling committed three turnovers Saturday, allowing 14 points off those turnovers. The Tigers entered the game having committed 10 turnovers all season, tied for third-fewest in the FCS.
Turnover comparison


Turnovers 3 … 2

Opp Pts off TOs 14 … 0

N.C. A&T averages 10.6 points a game off turnovers

Texas A&M Commerce - 2017 NCAA Division II Football National Champions

KANSAS CITY — The Texas A&M University-Commerce Lion football team won their first NCAA National Championship in school history Saturday night with a 37-27 victory over the West Florida Argonauts.

The title makes A&M-Commerce only the second team to win football national titles in both the NAIA and NCAA.

The Lions were backed by a raucous crowd at Children’s Mercy Park as they took the lead early with a 50-yard catch-and-run by Shawn Hooks in his first action in multiple weeks. The Argos did answer late in the first, but were burned on the ensuing kickoff as Reggie Kincade showcased his sprinting talents with a 99-yard touchdown return. After a pair of Kristov Martinez field goals, West Florida climbed back into close contention with a score in the game’s final minute, leaving the Lions with a 20-14 lead at halftime.

A&M-Commerce began to take control in the second half and stretched their lead to as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter. The Argonauts launched a solid comeback effort with a score in the final five minutes, but the Lions defense prevailed and the teal closed out their first NCAA National Championship in school history.

Argos’ quarterback Mike Beaudry was put under immense pressure all night, and was sacked five times by the Lion defense. He completed 22 of 48 passes for one score and one interception. Receiver Antoine Griffin hauled in eight of those passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. West Florida struggled on the ground, with Chris Schwarz gaining 45 yards on 14 carries, but he also found the end zone twice.

Harlon Hill-winner Perez completed 23 of 30 passes for 323 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. Perez becomes the first quarterback to pass for more than 300 yards in a national championship game since 2005. E. J. Thompson gained 110 yards on 21 carries to go with a score. Martinez converted three field goals in the game, which tied a record for most made in a championship game. Martinez also tied the Lone Star Conference record for most field goals made in a season with 24. The Lions overcame four turnovers to win the contest.

The Lions finish off the season at 14-1, the most wins in any single season in A&M-Commerce football history.

Mount Union: 2017 NCAA Division III Football National Champions

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Mount Union Purple Raiders capped a memorable season by winning the NCAA Division III football national championship on Friday with a 12-0 victory over defending champion Mary Hardin-Baylor in the final Stagg Bowl game in Salem, Virginia.

The championship was the 13th for Mount Union in 20 Stagg Bowl championship appearances. So winning the final in Salem was special to the Raiders.

"It's really special," Mount Union coach Vince Kehres said after the game. "The people down here are so good to us. ... They're so friendly, so welcoming. This place does a great job of making it special for the teams here."

It was the second national title for Kehres, who took over for his father, Larry Kehres, five seasons ago.

Vince Kehres is now 70-4 since 2013 and led the Raiders to the national title game four times in his five seasons. No college coach has won more games since 2013 than the 70 by Kehres. He has been part of 12 of Mount Union's 13 national titles as either a player, assistant coach or head coach.

Making the season even more special, Larry Kehres was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame last week in New York after leading Mount to 11 national championships. Kehres had a 332-24-3 overall record with 23 OAC championships and his .929 winning percentage is the best among coaches at all levels of college football.

And earlier this week four Raiders were named to the Associated Press Little All-America Division III team: senior center Cole Parrish, senior linebacker Charlie Dear, senior defensive lineman Elijah Berry and sophomore wide receiver Justin Hill.

The Raiders finish the season at 15-0 and now own a 99-16 record in NCAA Playoff games. They have been in the tournament a record 29 times, including 26 consecutive years.

The loss snapped a 29-game winning streak for Mary Hardin-Baylor and evened the series with Mount at 2-2.

Mount Union tallied eight sacks and two interceptions while limiting the Crusaders (14-1) to 144 yards, 75 of which came in the first quarter.

Alex Louthan booted a 31-yard field goal, quarterback D'Angelo Fulford found Hill for a 42-yard touchdown pass and Nick Brish added a late safety for the Purple Raiders on Friday. Brish was named the game's Most Outstanding Player.

"Really hats off all around on defense," Brish said. "We have outstanding defensive linemen, who made it easy on me because they were putting so much pressure on the guy, keeping them in the cage, keeping our landmarks and our pass rushes."

Among those offering congratulations to the Raiders was Iowa State coach Matt Campbell, the Massillon native and Mount Union alum who is getting praised for his work with the Cyclones after four successful seasons at Toledo.

Saint Francis: 2017 NAIA Football National Champions

The University of Saint Francis football team ran the table and finished the 2017 season with a second-straight NAIA national title.

No. 1 Saint Francis beat No. 2 Reinhardt 24-13 in the NAIA championship game Saturday at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla., to finish the season 14-0 and hold the trophy aloft again.

“Obviously, it’s very special to go back to back, not too many teams have done that,” Saint Francis coach Kevin Donley said in an ESPN postgame interview. “This senior class really created a championship culture, and for them to go out with back-to-back national titles is exactly what they deserve.”

Justin Green rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns and Nick Ferrer threw for 270 yards and a touchdown to lead the way.

The Cougars have won a school-record 23 straight games over the last two seasons. The NAIA title win marked the last game for senior quarterback Ferrer, who was named the NAIA Player of the Year on Friday. It was also the final game for offensive starters receiver Sean Boswell, tight end Zach Gegner and linemen Alex Woods, Connor Holcomb and Jaylen Gamble. Defensive starters who played their final game for the Cougars were nose tackle Eric Hemmelgarn and strong safeties Spencer Cowherd and Lee Stewart III.

Saint Francis became the fifth team to repeat as NAIA champ, and the first since Sioux Falls in 2008 and 2009.

Saint Francis got on the board first with a 22-yard field goal by Gavin Gardner. Green’s 80-yard touchdown run made it 10-0, and Ferrer led the team down the field through the air – including a big pass to Dan Ricksy – and hit Duke Blackwell for a 15-yard touchdown and a 17-0 first-quarter lead.

That lead increased to 24-0 early in the second quarter when Ferrer hit Blackwell with back-to-back passes – the second a deep one – and Green scored his second touchdown on a run around right end. Blackwell caught five passes for 96 yards before leaving the game with a knee injury. Boswell, who had a key catch on the opening drive, also suffered an injury.

Reinhardt got on the scoreboard with a two-yard Trevae Cain run to cut the Cougars’ lead to 24-7 with 8:29 left in the half.

Saint Francis had a chance to score late in the half after a 38-yard pass from Ferrer to Green, but a final pass to Will Chrisman inside the five came as the clock ran out.

Reinhardt cut the margin to 24-13 on a touchdown run by Qua Stocks in the third quarter, but Saint Francis’ Marcus Stepp blocked the extra point. Saint Francis’ high-powered offense, hurt by injury and facing a strong Reinhardt defense, stalled throughout the third quarter.

Saint Francis stopped Reinhardt on a 4th-down play with four minutes left, and then sealed the win.

Green rushed 21 times for 132 yards while Ferrer was 19 of 30 passing for 270 yards. Blackwell led all receivers in yardage before he left the game. Dan Ricksy had the most receptions, hauling in six passes for 82 yards.

Real Madrid: 2017 FIFA Club World Cup Champions

Real Madrid have become the first side to retain the FIFA Club World Cup, earning a 1-0 win over Gremio to lift the title at UAE 2017.

A second-half strike from Cristiano Ronaldo was enough to hand the Madrid giants victory, having dominated the encounter with the South American champions in Abu Dhabi on Saturday evening.

The game began with a thump, with plenty of physicality on show. However, it was the title holders that found their rhythm quickest. Dani Carvajal and Luka Modric both had the band blue and black-clad fans in the Zayed Sports City Stadium inhaling sharply.

Though the large amount of local support were not spared some nervous moments either in the opening period, with Edilson striking a swerving rocket of a free-kick inches over Keylor Navas’s crossbar.

Having had two-thirds of the possession before the break, Real returned for the second half looking to make it count. It did not take them long and it was Ronaldo, who broke the resistance. Striking a free-kick from 25 yards, it is no surprise there was an instant inquest among the Gremio wall, as the ball nestled in the bottom corner, having seen the Portuguese’s shot pierce clean through it.

He thought he had taken his record goalscoring tally in the Club World Cup from seven to eight, volleying in seven minutes later, but Karim Benzema’s fine nod down was adjudged to have been from an offside position.

Gremio failed to rouse a response, with goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe forced into fine saves from Modric - tipping his effort onto the post - Ronaldo, and Gareth Bale to stay within touching distance of Los Blancos. However, they could not prevent Zinedine Zidane guiding the Spanish side to successive titles, equalling Barcelona's record tally of three.

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