ROME, Ga. — Second-ranked Grand View (Iowa) defeated No. 1 Cumberlands, 35-23, to claim the school's first NAIA football championship in the program's sixth year of existence.
The Vikings (14-0) scored on their first three possessions and jumped out to a 21-3 lead over the Patriots (13-1) early in the second quarter. D'Angelo Jordan scored on a 45-yard run and quarterback Adam Craig scored from a yard out to pull Cumberlands within four at halftime, 21-17.
Craig failed to convert on three successive attempts from the Grand View goal line on Cumberlands' first offensive possession of the third quarter. The Patriots got no closer than the Grand View 43 for the rest of the period.
A fumbled punt return by Iquan Deed set up a fourth Grand View touchdown. Craig rushed for a score on the subsequent Cumberlands possession to pull the Patriots to within five, but the team couldn't make the two-point conversion.
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The Vikings quickly answered with a drive that ended on a 1-yard TD run by Derek Fulton. A second fumble by Deed and an interception thrown by Craig on successive possessions sealed Cumberlands' runner-up fate.
Cumberlands totaled 309 rushing yards. Jordan rushed 17 times for a team-high 128 yards. Craig finished with 94 on 30 carries.
The Patriots got very little going through the air, with Craig managing just 60 yards on 5-for-11 passing.
Derek Fulton, a sophomore, completed 19 of 39 passes for 300 yards and ran 13 times for 74 yards for Grand View. He threw four touchdowns in addition to his lone rushing score.
The game, played before a near-capacity crowd of 5,295, was the sixth and final NAIA championship in Rome. The event is moving to Daytona Beach, Fla., for the next three years.