2017-01-20 / Sports

Former Vikings celebrate FCS Championship


James Madison’s Domo Taylor holds up the FCS National Championship trophy following the Dukes 28-14 win over Youngstown State. 
Contributed by James Madison University Athletics Communications James Madison’s Domo Taylor holds up the FCS National Championship trophy following the Dukes 28-14 win over Youngstown State. Contributed by James Madison University Athletics Communications For most college football fans, January is just the beginning of a long trek to August. However, for a few fan bases, January is a special time when dreams come true. For two former Spring Valley Vikings, those dreams were realized in Frisco, Texas, following a 28-14 win by the James Madison Dukes over the Youngstown State Penguins in the FCS National Championship game Saturday, January 7. Domo Taylor and John Miller played integral roles during the Dukes special season.

Taylor found his way to Harrisonburg, Virginia, following stints at Mars Hill College and Georgia Military College. Miller signed with James Madison in the spring of 2014.

The season started with a question mark. In January 2016, James Madison announced former Citadel head coach Mike Houston as head coach of the Dukes.


James Madison’s John Miller fends off a Youngstown State tackler during the Dukes’ National Championship win. 
Contributed by James Madison University Athletics Communications James Madison’s John Miller fends off a Youngstown State tackler during the Dukes’ National Championship win. Contributed by James Madison University Athletics Communications For Miller, the addition of Houston wasn’t much of a transition. Miller had first met Houston during the recruiting process.

Taylor, however, didn’t know Houston and was a little frustrated with the situation. After his time at Georgia Military College,

Taylor joined James Houston to play for then-coach Everett Withers. After the 2015 season, Withers left to coach at Texas State. Following a conversation with a pair of former high school teammates, Taylor felt better about his new coach.

Despite the new coach, the team felt like the 2016 season could be special, especially considering the Dukes came off a 9-3 season in 2015.

“We all knew we had the talent; we knew we had to work hard for it,” Miller said. “That’s what we focused on in the off-season. We had to buy into coach Houston and the program. Obviously, the talent is there; we just had to come together as a team.”

James Madison rolled through its schedule with an 11-1 record, including wins at No. 6 Richmond and No. 9 Villanova, along with the home finale against Elon.

Taylor said playing in front of the Villanova and Richmond fans helped prepare James Madison for the postseason.

After a first round bye, the Dukes pounded New Hampshire and Sam Houston State to advance to the semi-finals to face the defending five-time national champion North Dakota State Bison.

Both Taylor and Miller said traveling to Fargo, North Dakota, was a different experience, especially playing in the Fargo Dome.

Early in the fourth quarter, James Madison took the lead following a 45- yard field goal by Tyler Gray.

North Dakota State punted on its next possession and the Dukes took advantage with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Bryan Schor to Miller for a ten-point lead. James Madison made the lead stand, defeating the Bison and advancing to the FCS National Championship game.

After defeating North Dakota State December 16, the Dukes had over three weeks to prepare for Youngstown State. The championship game wasn’t until Saturday, January 7.

Both Taylor and Miller admit having the ten days off helped the team refocus. Once they reconvened, it was all about preparing for the Penguins.

In Frisco, Texas, the Dukes jumped out to an early 21-0 lead and held on for a 28-14 win over Youngstown State for the FCS National Championship.

“This year God had a plan,” Taylor said. “It is crazy he brought all of us together to execute that plan. I enjoyed the moment. I never saw that many people come to see us play. It made me feel great.”

While both players are overjoyed about being national champions, they remember where it all started.

“I never thought coming out of Spring Valley I would be a national champion,” Miller said. “I set the bar high for myself, and I wanted to do great things. I’m so grateful and thankful to God that we are National Champions. Just to represent all my coaches at Spring Valley– Coach Aldridge, Coach Bacon, all those guys–was just an amazing feeling.”

“It’s bigger than myself; it’s bigger than Spring Valley,” Taylor said. “It means a lot to Spring Valley just to give students who are going there now hope they can be a national champion as long as they prepare for it. I can’t give enough credit to the people at Spring Valley who helped me.”

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