Road trip for football and history

Published 5:43 pm Friday, November 18, 2022

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Saturday’s (Nov. 12) road trip the edge of the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia to witness history in the making didn’t turn out the way I had hoped, but as is always the case you learn a lot from the experience.

Nov. 12 marked the date of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Football Championship game for 2022. With the exception of three years during World War I (1918-1920), the cancelation of the 2013 contest, and in 2020 when everything worldwide ground to a halt because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this conference has crowned a football champion annually since 1912.

Over the course of the league’s first 60 years, football in the CIAA was dominated by two schools: Morgan State (19 titles) and Virginia State (7 championships).

Winston-Salem State and Virginia Union then became the dominate schools on the gridiron, winning 12 and six titles respectively over a 40-year stretch (1977-2016).

Bowie State won the last three CIAA titles, but their hopes of a four-peat was dashed after they lost back-to-back Northern Division games against Virginia Union and Chowan.

That brings us to the 2022 title clash, one featuring our own Chowan Hawks against Fayetteville State University.

Fayetteville State, who had defeated Chowan, 13-10, earlier this season, brought a veteran team to Salem Stadium on Saturday. The Broncos have played for the CIAA championship in each of the last four years, only to come away as the runner-up. That experience showed on Saturday.

On the other hand, Chowan was making its first-ever appearance in the conference title game. The Hawks have struggled over the years trying to build and maintain a program that is consistently playing at a high level. Chowan, now under the direction of Mark Hall who is in his second full season as the head coach, seems to be gaining some traction. The Hawks have posted back-to-back 7-3 seasons. Despite losing their first two games of the 2022 season, Chowan rallied to win seven of the next eight outings, including a huge upset of then unbeaten and nationally ranked Virginia Union. They followed that up by knocking off Bowie State. Both those big wins were on the road.

Saturday’s title game with the Blue Ridge in the backdrop pitted a program rich in CIAA history (FSU won the league’s championship in 2002, 2003 and 2009) and the new kid on the block (Chowan joined the CIAA in 2008).

I have to interject at this point that Chowan was well-represented on Saturday. We had a big crowd there to cheer on the Hawks, to include current students and proud alumni.

What we witnessed was a great effort by the Hawks. As they did in their first meeting in Fayetteville back on Sept. 29, Chowan dominated the offensive stats but fell short on the scoreboard. That same scenario played out this past Saturday….Chowan held the upper hand in total yards (424-285) and first downs (28-15). Unfortunately, the end result was the same as well – a three-point loss (31-28) to the Broncos who kicked the game-winning field goal as time expired.

While they played well, a couple of missed scoring opportunities earlier in the game and losing a fumble at their own 15 that Fayetteville State, one play later, turned into the game’s first touchdown proved costly down the stretch. But that’s football…there’s no need to make excuses and look in the rear view mirror and second guess what if this or that happened. As I always like to say, “if ifs and buts were candy and nuts, then everyday would be Christmas!”

Congratulations to coach Hall, his players and his staff for a thrilling and successful year of Chowan football. I’m excited for what the future holds for this program.

And while passing out praise, thanks to my buddy Charles Revelle – Chowan’s official athletic photographer – for allowing me to tag along with him on Saturday. Myself and sports writer extraordinaire Gene Motley rode with Charles to Salem, VA….roughly a five-hour ride (one way) to the southwestern Virginia mountains.

We left at 6 am, driving to Suffolk, VA where we hopped onto US 460 for the journey westward. I learned that Charles, a now retired truck driver, knew that road like the back of his hand. He pointed out numerous things of interest along the way…to include a country store that has a tree growing through a portion of its front-side roof and another store famous for its fried bologna sandwiches.

He also noted railroad history as we passed through Crewe, VA. Founded in the late 1800’s, Crewe became famous for its railroad locomotive repair shops back in an era when they operated on steam. Norfolk & Western Railroad (now Norfolk Southern) operated a rail yard there for east–west trains carrying Appalachian coal to Hampton Roads for export abroad.

The quaint small town prides itself in the permanent display of several old steam locomotives and accompanying rail cars.

I also took note that this particular road is situated along a path of Civil War history. There were major battles fought in Petersburg and Lynchburg.

We also passed through Appomattox, VA. History tells us that on April 9, 1865, Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S. Grant that ended the American Civil War. That surrender took place in the McLean House, located in the village of what was then known as the Appomattox Court House. All of that property and buildings were preserved and are now part of a National Historical Park.

Thanks again to Charles for being a professional driver and top-of-the-line tour guide. I’m considering returning to that area sometimes in the future for further historical exploration.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332.7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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