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Mon December 17, 2012
WSSU Rams Fall Short of Historic Dream
Things are quiet on the campus of Winston-Salem State University. Most students have left for the Christmas Holiday. But many in the city are still talking about the WSSU Rams and their first national championship appearance. ‘I believe’ was a chant heard across some parts of Winston-Salem this weekend.
About 40 fans at Carolina Vineyard and Hops waved mini red and white pom-poms in front of two big screened TVs, believing in and cheering on the Winston-Salem State University Rams. The Marshall Street wine shop was filled with Ram pride…as everyone sported red shirts, some with the school name, others embossed with the white outline of a ram’s head.
“To have a HBCU on ESPN3, that’s a big deal,” shouted Erika Simon. “And to see our local fans, the trip they made and the effort they made to get there, it’ll show people who might not have heard of WSSU or any other HBCU how we support them and I’m proud of them.”
Saturday afternoon in Florence Alabama, the Rams played the Valdosta State University Blazers in the Division II National Championship Football Game. Since 1979, this is only the second time a HBCU team played for the national title.
“I think Winston-Salem State playing in a national championship game sends the signal to the world that historically black colleges have the caliber of player that can play at every level, explained JR Gorham.
Last week, before leaving for Alabama, WSSU head coach Connell Maynor proudly described his team as elevating the national image of HBCU football programs. “A HBCU playing for a national championship. Nobody thought it could be done and we’re living proof that it can be done and we’re going to give other HBCU’s inspiration that they can do it also.”
The WSSU Rams rode in on an undefeated season but several turnovers kept them out of in zone. Meanwhile, the Blazers set the game tone with the opening kick-off, running it back 96 yards to score. They closed out the first half with 21 points. Valdosta won this championship in 2004 and 2007.
But Ronnie said he wasn’t concerned. “You know, it’s not over until the fat lady sings. So go Rams, go Rams I’m not giving up on them.”
And in the third quarter, Sharon Correll quickly jumped to her feet screaming “I believe” as the Rams scored a touchdown.
But it would be their only one. Final score Valdosta State 35, WSSU 7.
“It seems they made a lot of mistakes, a lot of turnovers. Nervousness got to them,” reflected Patrice Thompson. “But I’m still proud of them for making it to the division 2 Championship game regardless.”
Darrin Glenn is a former WSSU Ram. In 1996 and 1997, he played defense. “Overall as a program, the young guys, they now believe we can play on that level and why not be on that level. Why not do it next year and win.”
The WSSU Rams flew into Smith Reynolds Airport Saturday night. Cheering fans greeted them along with the Carver High School band and cheerleaders, Mayor Alan Joines and several city council members. WSSU’s Head Coach Connell Maynor told reporters when Valdosta State first played this championship game they didn’t win either. He said he plans to take the WSSU Rams to the Division II National Championship again. And this time, to win the title.