CIAA championship game takes place Saturday in Salem
Two university football teams are set to face off in the
at Salem Stadium Saturday. But this game means much more than just football.
Markus Crutchfield plays football for Fayetteville State University in North Carolina.
"When I was in 5th grade, my father played, and I was actually a basketball player before I played football, but he really encouraged me to play football so I just stuck with it since then," he said.
Leke Ajenifuja plays for Bowie State University in Maryland.
He said, "We established our goals as a team, and we worked hard, put in every week, worked hard to be right where we are," in Salem to compete in the CIAA championship game.
The CIAA is a collegiate athletic conference, mostly consisting of historically black colleges and universities.
"Football is a big deal for CIAA. The NCAA is celebrating 150 years of football, and we have a major footprint in that history. When we celebrate this weekend's championship, we're not just celebrating the two teams, we're celebrating the total history of who we are," Jacqie McWilliams, Commissioner of the CIAA, said.
History in the making right here in our area. Salem treated both teams to lunch at the Salem Civic Center, giving the players a chance to cool down before getting their heads in the game.
"It's our third year up here, and last two years we came out disappointed, this time we're looking for a big change," Crutchfield said.
"Oh it's going to be a show, you know, we're going to come out here and put four quarters together, and just make sure we're going to be on top," Ajenifuja added.
Both team coaches are expecting a win.
"We want to know what if feels like to be champions," Richard Hayes, Head Football Coach for Fayetteville State University, said.
"We come this far to win a ball game," Damon Wilson, Head Football Coach for Bowie State University, said.
But the athletes and coaches agree the CIAA means more to them than football.
"CIAA is opportunity to me," Ajenifuja explained.
"At the end of the day, everybody's family, everybody knows each other, everybody gets along real well throughout the conference," Hayes said.