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FCS playoffs: Historic appearances by Davidson, VMI highlight 2021 spring playoff field

By Richard Walker

Davidson College set history earlier this year with a stunning upset win at the University of San Diego, then added even more when they chosen for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoffs.

Davidson linebacker Jake Alexander (25) makes a tackle against Georgetown University earlier in his career. [DavidsonWildcats.com photo]
The Wildcats (4-2, 4-1) won their first Pioneer Football League title to earn the league’s automatic berth in the NCAA field.

Davidson’s 31-25 win at San Diego, which snapped the Toreros’ NCAA record 39-game conference winning streak was decisive in wrapping up the Wildcats first league title since 1969.

In 1969, the Wildcats played in the Tangerine Bowl as the Southern Conference champion in their last previous postseason contest.

A pair of former South Point High standouts are top defenders for coach Scott Abell’s team, as Jake Alexander is the Wildcats leading tackler with 40 stops and Max Mead has two tackles. Alexander, a junior linebacker, was a 1,000-yard rushing fullback in South Point’s Red Bone offense before transitioning to defense and Mead played defensive back for the Red Raiders.

Offensive standouts for Davidson include 519-yard rusher Dylan Sparks, 459-yard rusher Coy Williams and 617-yard passer Tyler Phelps.

Davidson faces No. 4 seed Jacksonville State (9-2) on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Gamecocks went 5-0 to win the Ohio Valley Conference.

Max Mead heads onto Davidson’s Richardson Stadium before a game. [DavidsonWildcats.com photo]
Davidson and Jacksonville are two of 10 automatic qualifiers for the field. The others are Weber State (Big Sky Conference), Monmouth (Big South), Delaware (Colonial Athletic Association), South Dakota (Missouri Valley Football Conference), Sacred Heart (Northast Conference), Holy Cross (Patriot League), Sam Houston (Southland) and another first-time FCS playoff participant VMI (Southern Conference).

South Dakota State (5-1) is the No. 1 seed, Sam Houston (6-0) is No. 2, James Madison (5-0) is No. 3 and Jacksonville State No. 4.

Three-time defending national champion North Dakota (6-2) is one of six at-large teams in the 16-team bracket that will run until the May 16 championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Tex.

Here’s the full FCS playoff schedule:

April 24 first round games
Monmouth at Sam Houston, noon
Davidson at Jacksonville State, 2 p.m.
VMI at James Madison, 2 p.m.
Holy Cross at South Dakota State, 3 p.m.
Eastern Washington at North Dakota State, 3:30 p.m.
Missouri State at North Dakota, 4 p.m.
Southern Illinois at Weber State, 4 p.m.
Sacred Heart at Delaware, 7 p.m.

May 1-2 quarterfinals
Holy Cross-South Dakota State winner vs. Southern Illinois-Weber State winner
Delaware-Sacred Heart winner vs. Davidson-Jacksonville State winner
James Madison-VMI winner vs. Missouri State-North Dakota winner
North Dakota State-Eastern Washington winner vs. Monmouth-Sam Houston winner

May 8 semifinals
HC-SDS-SI-WS winner vs. Del-SH-Dav-JS winner
JM-VMI-MS-ND winner vs. NDS-EW-Mon-SH winner

May 16 championship game
2 p.m. at Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Tex.