Winston-Salem State advances to DII final
Kameron Smith accounted for three touchdowns and Maurice Lewis ran for two scores as Winston-Salem State beat West Texas A&M 41-18 Saturday in the Division II national semifinals.
Smith threw for 233 yards and two touchdowns — both 21-yarders to Jameze Massey and Jamal Williams — and tacked on a 23-yard scoring run late in the fourth quarter for the Rams (14-0), who advanced to the national championship game for the first time after losing in last year's semifinal.
"We did not want a repeat of last year," said Lewis, who ran for 118 yards, including scoring runs of 9 and 11 yards. "(West Texas A&M) didn't respect our running game, so we had to prove them wrong. Y'all saw what happened."
The Rams will now face Valdosta State for the Division II championship next Saturday in Florence, Ala. The Blazers, who won the national title in 2004 and 2007, beat previously undefeated Minnesota State-Mankato 34-19 earlier Saturday.
"The whole team played well," said Winston-Salem running back Bryce Sherman, who added 73 rushing yards, including a 32-yard scoring run in the first quarter. "The offensive line was great. They didn't think we could run the ball on them, so we tried to set the tone by running the ball."
The Rams finished with 511 yards total offense, including 262 yards rushing, and 29 first downs against West Texas A&M, which came into Saturday's game having held opponents to 338 yards and 20.7 points per game.
West Texas A&M quarterback Dustin Vaughan, who threw for more than 4,500 yards and 44 touchdowns this season, was held to 169 yards and a score, a 13-yarder to Trevor Hammargren in the first quarter that gave the Buffs (12-3) the early lead.
However, Winston-Salem State's defense kept the pressure on Vaughan throughout Saturday's game, sacking him four times (three coming in the first half) and forcing a pair of first-half interceptions.
"They were flying around," said Vaughan, a finalist for the Division II national player of the year award. "Their big guys up front were doing a good job of collapsing the pocket. The pressure was what we were used to, but some dumb mistakes on my part and not executing like we could really hurt us."
Khiry Robinson had 137 rushing yards and a touchdown — a 13-yard run in the fourth quarter — and Sergio Castillo added a 29-yard field goal for the West Texas A&M.
But the Buffs — who won three consecutive road playoff games to advance to the Division II semifinals for the first time — also hurt themselves repeatedly with mistakes, including 13 penalties for 119 yards.
"(Winston-Salem State) played very sound and executed very well," West Texas A&M head coach Don Carthel said. "But we didn't play as well as we have in the last three weeks. We were lights out those first three weeks, but we didn't play good football today."
Note: Former Northern Vance star and Winston-Salem linebacker Carlos Fields was tied for a team-high 10 tackles in the game. He also had an interception. The Rams' title matchup against Valdosta State will be televised on ESPN, kicking off at 1 p.m.