By GUY CURTRIGHT
ROME, Ga. — It didn’t take long for Grand View to win its first national championship.
Derek Fulton threw four touchdown passes and ran for another score to help Grand View win the NAIA title in the Iowa school’s sixth year of football, 35-23 over the University of the Cumberlands on Saturday.
Fulton, a sophomore, completed 19 of 39 passes for 300 yards and ran 13 times for 74 yards as second-ranked Grand View completed a 14-0 season at the expense of No. 1 Cumberlands (13-1).
“When we started, I wanted to make us a national-caliber program,” said head coach Mike Woodley, who was the Fort Dodge Dodgers’ program leader from 1983-88. “But I never put a timetable on winning a championship. You just never know about something like that.”
Fulton was selected the most outstanding offensive player, and Grand View senior linebacker Jason Gladfelder, who was in on 15 tackles, took defensive honors.
“I knew when I got here two years ago that we had a lot of good players,” Fulton said. “But I didn’t really expect this. How can you? But it really feels great.”
It started raining at the end of the game, but that couldn’t damper the Grand View celebration. Woodley even did a little dance at the urging of his players.
“All our success is because of Coach Woodley,” Gladfelder said. “He told us that we could do this and you have to believe. Now it has all come true.”
Cumberlands — a school from Kentucky — rushed for 309 yards, with D’Angelo Jordan gaining 128 yards on 17 carries, and Adam Craig getting 94 yards on 30 attempts. But the Kentucky school had only 60 yards passing, as freshman Craig went 5 for 11 with an interception.
“That’s a good team and we knew it would be hard to stop them,” Gladfelder said.
Grand View stopped Cumberlands on downs at the 1 in the third quarter, and took advantage of a muffed punt to go up 28-17 early in the fourth. Wes Horneister recovered Iquan Dee’s muff at the 27 and the Vikings scored in three plays, with Fulton hitting Brady Roland with a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Craig capped a 10-play, 63-yard drive from a yard out with 7:28 remaining, but Cumberlands’ try for the two-point conversion failed. Grand View then went 56 yards in five plays for the clinching touchdown. Fulton hit Roland with a 43-yard pass and then took it over himself from a yard out with 4:53 left.
“We’re extremely disappointed, but the players fought hard and I’m proud of the season we had,” Cumberlands coach John Bland said.
Grand View scored the first three times it had the ball, going 80, 75 and 61 yards to take a 21-3 lead early in the second quarter on Fulton’s third touchdown pass. Cumberlands, though, stopped the Vikings on downs inside the 1 to close the half down 21-17.
Jordan, who had 122 yards on 14 first-half carries, broke off a 45-yard touchdown run for Cumberlands, and Craig scored from a yard out to close the gap. Al Merrick started the Patriots’ scoring with a 33-yard field goal.
Fulton hit Keonte White with a 59-yard TD strike to start the scoring, then teamed with Taylor Goebel for a 7-yarder and Davion Hurst on a 2-yarder. Craig accounted for 229 total yards in the first half, completing 13 of 27 passes and rushing for 55 yards.
Senior linebacker West Hazelhurst was in on a game-best 17 tackles for Cumberlands, but the Patriots gave up 429 yards.
“Getting here was our goal,” Hazelhurst said. “It didn’t end the way we wanted, but it’s been a great ride.”
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.
Grand View rolled to a 35-0 semifinal victory over 2012 runner-up Morningside (Iowa), ranked No. 5, while Cumberlands had to go to overtime before securing a 34-27 victory over No. 3-ranked Carroll (Mont.), which has won six NAIA titles.