Virginia State looked defeat squarely in the eye Saturday in its regular season finale against arch-rival Virginia before eking out a 40-39 home win to claim the CIAA Northern Division championship.

Sitting atop the division standings and sporting a perfect 8-0 record and a No. 16 in Division II and No. 3 in their region, the Trojans had squandered a 14-0 first-quarter lead and trailed 39-34 with just under three minutes left in the contest. Virginia Union (6-4, 5-2 CIAA) had the ball at its 15 and faced third down and seven for a first down after the Trojans had turned the ball over on downs at Panthers’ 12 minutes earlier.

Things didn’t look good. If the Trojans were to give up seven yards, their undefeated season would likely go out the window, along with a berth in CIAA Championship Game, and they would drop in the national and regional rankings. That dire scenario didn’t play out. Cornerback Diontae Bruce saved the day when he intercepted quarterback Darius Taylor’s pass and returned it to the 14 yard line. Four plays later, Trenton Cannon barreled into the end zone from the two yard line with 1:34 showing on the clock to give the Trojans the victory.

Virginia Union was bidding for an upset win that would have created a three-way tie for first place in the Northern Division among the Panthers, the Trojans and Bowie State, which would have given Bowie State the berth in the conference championship game on the strength of the three-team tie-breaker. The Panthers took a 32-28 lead on Taylor’s 24-yard touchdown pass to Chazton McKenzie at 4:44 of the third period. They led 39-28 going into the fourth quarter after Sterling Hammond returned a botched punt 15 yards for a touchdown.

The Trojans’ victory spoiled a stellar passing performance by Taylor. The Virginia Union quarterback threw for 330 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions, the last of which was the most costly.

Cannon was the workhorse for Virginia State’s offense. He carried the ball 34 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned three kickoffs for 96 yards, giving him 213 all-purpose yards for the game.

Virginia State will play Southern Division champion Fayetteville State for the conference crown in Salem, Va., Saturday.

Key Results

 Tuskegee 50, Miles 20 – The Golden Tigers’ suddenly explosive offense propelled them to a lopsided home SIAC victory and a West Division championship. Tuskegee (8-2, 6-0 SIAC) will face East champion Fort Valley State, the defending conference champion, in the SIAC Championship Game Saturday in Fort Valley, Ga., after topping the 45-point mark for the second consecutive week.

The Golden Tigers defeated Central State 45-0 the previous week. Looking nothing like the unit that produced 192 total yards in a 14-6 season-opening win against Alabama State and 119 – along with just three first downs – in a Week 2 20-7 loss to Albany State that didn’t count in the SIAC standings, Tuskegee’s offense rang up 485 yards against Miles (6-4, 4-2 SIAC), including 331 on the ground.

Fullback Justice Owens was the secret weapon in the Golden Tigers’ offensive arsenal. Owens had rushed for 157 yards on 36 carries for the season, but the converted tailback thundered through the Miles defense for 134 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Tailback Hoderick Lowe added 82 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown run, on 12 carries. Quarterback Jamarcus Ezell threw for 154 yards, completing five of 11 passes, and two touchdowns. Ezell also scored on a 22-yard run.

 North Carolina Central 14, Hampton 6 – The Eagles held on at the end for a road victory to remain in the MEAC championship race. Davant Reynolds intercepted a pass end zone with 37 seconds left in the game after Hampton (5-4, 4-2 MEAC) had driven to North Carolina Central’s seven yard line on the Pirates’ final possession.

North Carolina Central (7-2, 5-1 MEAC), the defending conference champion, trailed 6-0 in the first period after Adam Brown made a pair of field goals for Hampton. The Eagles scored their first points corralled a deflected pass and returned it six yards for a touchdown and 7-6 lead. Chauncey Caldwell tossed 27-yard touchdown pass to Jacen Murphy in the third quarter for North Carolina Central’s second score.

Alcorn State 47, Alabama A&M 22 – The Braves literally ran their way to their 10th straight win against a SWAC East Division opponent in their home victory. Alcorn (5-3, 4-1 SWAC) racked up 416 yards on the ground against the Bulldogs (3-6, 3-3 SWAC) with three-ball-carriers topping the 100-yard mark. P. J. Simmons, Alcorn’s No. 2 running back, topped Braves rushers with 172 yards and two touchdowns on runs of 33 and 43 yards on 10 carries; quarterback Noah Johnson had 124 yards on seven carries, and De’Lance Turner, the Braves’ featured back who leads the SWAC 1,009 yards, added 113 yards on 11 attempts.

Johnson had touchdown runs of 69 and 16 yards. Turner had a 51-yard scoring run. Corey McCullough kicked field goals of 39, 38, 37 and 24 yards for the Braves to break the school single season record. McCullough has made 14 field goals this season, breaking the record of 13 set by Wilfredo “Sugar Foot’’ Rosales in 1980 and tied by David McConnell in 2003.

Bowie State 77, Elizabeth City State 21 – The Bulldogs got a record-setting performance from running back Robert Chesson as they topped the 60-point mark for the fifth time this season in their home CIAA victory. Chesson set school and CIAA single game records with 304 rushing yards. He tied the CIAA record with a school record seven rushing touchdowns.

Chesson also scored on a 38-yard pass reception, giving him 48 points and another conference record. Quarterback Amir Hall passed for 299 yards for the Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 CIAA) as Bowie State, No. 20 in Division II, amassed 742 total yards. Elizabeth City (4-6, 2-5 CIAA) had 444 total yards, but the Vikings were never in the game after falling behind 21-0 in the second quarter.

 Other Scores

MEAC

 Bethune-Cookman 41, Morgan State 28

Howard 37, Florida A&M 26

North Carolina A&T 35, Norfolk State 7

Savannah State 35, Delaware State 21

SWAC

Alabama State 13, Jackson State 3

Grambling State 31, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 26

Southern 37, Prairie View A&M 31

Texas Southern 38, Mississippi Valley State 21

CIAA

Chowan 73, Lincoln (Pa.) 30

Fayetteville State 23, Winston-Salem State 21

Johnson C. Smith 27, Livingstone 14

Saint Augustine’s 31, Shaw 14

SIAC

Albany State 34, Fort Valley State 9

Benedict 20, Kentucky State 16

Lane 28, Central State 20

Morehouse 40, Clark Atlanta 0

Others

Kutztown 65, Cheyney 0

Langston 14, SAGU10

Panhandle State 34, Texas College 13

Southeastern 77, Edward Waters 12

Tennessee State 60, Virginia-Lynchburg 0
Urbana 36, West Virginia State 35

William Jewell 13, Lincoln (Mo.) 3

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