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Holy Cross, New Hampshire could be headed for second-round showdown in FCS playoffs

Holy Cross has won four Patriot League titles in a row and will now be a No. 8 seed in the FCS playoffs.Barry Chin/Globe Staff

A record fourth straight Patriot League outright title, an automatic bid, and an unblemished record allowed Holy Cross to earn a bye through the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

The Crusaders (11-0) earned a No. 8 seed in the 24-team field, which was announced Sunday.

New Hampshire (8-3) was the only other New England program to qualify and will host Fordham (9-2) in the first round at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Wildcats escaped Maine with an overtime win Saturday to finish 7-1 in the Colonial Athletic Association and claim a share of the conference title with William & Mary.


The Wildcats’ previous FCS playoff appearance was in 2017, when they made it as far as the quarterfinal round before bowing out against South Dakota State.

Fordham coach Joe Conlin spent seven seasons (2004-10) as an assistant at UNH. Kevin Decker, Fordham’s offensive coordinator/QB coach, is a 2012 UNH graduate who won the 2011 CAA Offensive Player of the Year award as the Wildcats’ quarterback.

The Fordham-UNH winner will travel to Worcester’s Fitton Field at noon on Dec. 3 to take on Holy Cross.

Coach Bob Chesney’s Crusaders completed the third 11-0 regular season in school history with a rout of Georgetown Saturday. The perfect record includes an overtime win, 53-52, against Fordham.

Last year, Holy Cross won its first FCS playoff game when it topped Sacred Heart, 13-10, then fell to No. 5 Villanova in the second round, 21-6. The Crusaders lost to Monmouth in the 2019 playoffs and to South Dakota State in 2020. Their only other FCS postseason appearance came in 2009, also a loss to Villanova (first round). Prior to the name change from Division 1-AA to FCS in 2006, the Crusaders made a 1983 playoff appearance and lost to Western Carolina. In 1946, Holy Cross lost the Orange Bowl to Miami.


The Crusaders, ranked No. 6 in the latest Stats Perform FCS Top 25 and FCS Coaches Poll, are averaging 39.1 points and 238.4 rushing yards per game, both of which rank in the top 10 nationally.

South Dakota State (10-1) received the top seed for the FCS tournament, followed by No. 2 Sacramento State (11-0), No. 3 North Dakota State (9-2), and No. 4 Montana State (10-1). North Dakota State has won nine of the past 11 FCS championships, including a 38-10 win over Montana State last year.

The FCS national championship game will be held Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas.

Brendan Kurie can be reached at brendan.kurie@globe.com.