For the N.C. Central University Eagles, the 23-14 victory over Alcorn State last Saturday was personal. The 2021 MEAC SWAC Excursion in Atlanta was the first time since fall 2019 for Eagles to take to the gridiron.
“We expect to be the best we possibly can be, and we believe that we are a championship team,” said Jessie Malit, Eagle defensive end. “We just want to come out and put on a show for our fans and also prove to ourselves that we are the team we believe we can be.”
The team’s 2019 season ended poorly with three consecutive losses and an overall record of 4-8.
With this in mind, Eagle head coach, Trei Oliver, wanted to position his team for success.
“We need a thermostat mentality. Never too high, never too low. When something good happens we need to keep playing, when something bad happens keep playing,” said Oliver.
Several ESPN commentators – including Des Howard – all predicted an Eagle loss to Alcorn State Braves.
In an interview on the Juice Network, even the Migos, a Grammy-nominated rap group, piled on saying that the Eagles didn’t stand a chance against the Braves.
The victory marked not only the beginning of the new season but also unlocked a renewed heart and mindset for the Eagles and its fans. On the Juice Network senior wide receiver Daeshawn Stephens responded to the Eagle critics: “Offset, Quavo and Takeoff, I love you all, but you can eat your words.”
“This win was huge considering the under .500 record we had in 2019 but we knew this would be different. This win boosted our confidence. We were excited to put our training to the test,” said Stephens after the game. Stephens made one reception for 33 yards.
In total, the Eagles had 391 yards gained topping the Braves 343. On offense, sophomore quarterback, Davius Richard, left his mark on the field with 16 passes for 184 yards gaining him offensive MVP.
Senior running back, Isaiah Totten rushed for 58 yards on 13 carries. Sophomore defensive back, Brandon Codrington, had a critical second half punt return for 77-yards, taking the Eagles to the house.
“It felt surreal when I was running down the sideline. I couldn’t believe I was about to score,” Codrington said.
In conjunction with NCCU’s offense, the defensive side did their due diligence as well. Senior linebacker, Noah Rainbow-Douglas, contributed seven tackles.
In addition to stunning Alcorn State and all the doubters, the Eagles captivated the hearts and minds of their fans, restoring hope for a bright and fulfilling season as well as an academic year, ready to face the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases.
Alexis Harp, president of the Student Activities Board, described the victory as a morale booster.
“This game set the tone for the entire year because our team went out there and showed that even in the middle of adversity, you will come out on top,” said Harp. “I know the students are very excited to see what the team will do throughout the rest of their season.”
Eagles face off with the Marshall University Thundering Herd in Huntington, W.Va. Saturday at 7 p.m.