Repetition key to Cumberlands' run at NAIA football title

Cumberlands quarterback Adam Craig (7) is more of a runner than a passer, averaging 89 rushing yards a game with 24 touchdowns.
Cumberlands quarterback Adam Craig (7) is more of a runner than a passer, averaging 89 rushing yards a game with 24 touchdowns.

WILLIAMSBURG — Deception has not been a big part of Cumberlands' success on the football field this season.

The top-ranked Patriots will face No. 2 Grand View, both teams with 13-0 records, for the NAIA championship Saturday at Rome, Ga.

That's Cumberlands, with the NAIA's top rushing offense — 359.2 yards per game — versus Grand View, with the NAIA's No. 2 rush defense — 85.2 yards a game.

The Patriots will try to run the ball down the Vikings' throat.

Running back D'Angelo Jordan leads Cumberlands with 94.2 yards per game and 11 touchdowns. Quarterback Adam Craig averages 89 rushing yards and has run for 24 TDs, as well as 13 TDs passing. The Patriots average 119.7 passing yards a game.

"I like to score now, and if it takes throwing the ball and getting the big plays we'll do it, and we do," Cumberlands Coach John Bland said. "But I like being able to run it when the game is in hand and when we need to. ... We can run some plays over and over and over again. Now, Adam might not like that and D'Angelo. They're out there going 'Coach, call something else maybe because they know exactly where we're coming,' and they still can't stop it.

"I think it just comes down to your players going out there and executing the plan. But football's a physical game; it is very physical and 'that man against ours.'"

Cumberlands — like, Grand View, playing in its first NAIA title game — comes in with the second-most prolific scoring offense in the NAIA, averaging 45.6 points. Grand View, from Iowa, has the second-ranked scoring defense at 14.8 points a game.

As for pass vs. run, Craig says, "you're going to have to be able to do both pretty well. Because they're pretty big up front and their defensive backs, they run well. I think their strength is they run to the ball and gang tackle, so I think we're going to have to keep them off balance by being able to run and pass."

A key to Cumberlands' success on offense, according to Bland, is that even the backs have an all-for-one attitude.

"We have had a great group with some talent. I mean they can run, they can catch, they can block," Bland said. "But the best thing about them is they're unselfish. Because one game D'Angelo may block the whole time and somebody else gets the ball. Iquan (Deed) may be a blocker and D'Angelo's getting the ball or Adam's carrying the ball. Hunter Lewis and Darrell Cross and all those guys that have shared time, but they all block.

"Here's the way I like to think of it is this: I like to think that they have an offensive lineman mentality. Offensive line is the most unselfish group because all they do is block. They never get their name in the paper besides what we're talking about right now. ... They go out there and they block and they're unselfish. That's the way our running backs are because it doesn't matter if they get the ball, and that's why we're successful now is because of that mentality."

Sure, he'd like to carry the ball all the time, Jordan says. But, "whatever he asks me to do, I'm going to get it done. That's it."

The Cumberlands mentality also includes a big goal, one that can only be achieved Saturday.

"We've kind of passed the stage where we're going to play for the conference championship," Bland said. "That is obviously one of our goals, too, but we've got to the point where we wanted to change that goal to a national championship."

Cumberlands played the first three rounds of the playoffs on its home (grass) field.

Bland doesn't think a game away from home will affect his team. In fact, the Patriots were to arrive in Rome on Wednesday, so "when we get done, Rome's going to feel like home," he said.

In fact, Rome may be to Cumberlands' benefit because of a FieldTurf playing surface, he said.

"I think that's going to be to our advantage because we've got a lot of speed," Bland said. "We've got guys who'll get on the corner and make things happen offensively."

Grand View is led by quarterback Derek Fulton, who has rushed for 633 yards and four touchdowns, and passed for 3,151 yards and 30 TDs.

Mike Perez, averaging 40.4 rush yards a game, has scored nine touchdowns on the ground and one via the pass.

Top receiver Brady Roland, averaging 93.8 yards a game, has 13 TDs.

"Our defensive line, they match up pretty well against them. I think we have a slight advantage over their offensive line," Cumberlands linebacker Weston Hazelhurst said. "Their running backs are pretty good; they've got three of them. I think the quarterback and receivers are their biggest weapons. Our 'DBs' and our spys on the quarterback are really going to have to step it up this week to stop their offense."


(Home games in capital letters)

Regular season

Aug. 31 UNION 52-21

Sep. 7 CUMBERLAND (Tenn.) 41-10

Sep. 14 at Belhaven (Miss.) 41-17

Sep. 26 at Pikeville 59-3


Oct. 19 GEORGETOWN 38-35

Oct. 26 at Reinhardt (Ga.) 28-24

Nov. 2 at Campbellsville 70-17

Nov. 9 KY. CHRISTIAN 38-0

Nov. 16 at Bluefield (Va.) 56-14

NAIA playoffs

Nov. 23 ST. AMBROSE (IOWA) 56-28

Nov. 30 ST. FRANCIS (IND.) 28-14

Dec. 7CARROLL (MONT.)34-27 (OT)


Regular season

Aug. 29 at Drake (Iowa) 21-16

Sep. 7at Siena Heights (Mich.)24-21

Sep. 21 at Marian (Ind.) 30-7

Sep. 28 ST. FRANCIS (Ind.) 23-7

Oct. 5 at St. Xavier (Ill.) 48-21

Oct. 12at Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)48-17

Oct. 19 TRINITY INT. (Ill.) 47-14

Oct. 26 ST. AMBROSE (IOWA) 35-21

Nov. 2 at Waldorf (Iowa) 70-14

Nov. 9 WILLIAM PENN (Iowa) 25-17

NAIA playoffs

Nov. 23Ottawa (Kan.)38-13

Nov. 30 TABOR (KAN.) 44-24



NAIA Championship

No. 2 Grand View (Iowa) vs. No. 1 Cumberlands

When: 4:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Barron Stadium at Rome, Ga.

Records: Grand View 13-0, Cumberlands 13-0