The undefeated North Carolina A&T University Aggies got the best of N.C. Central University football in the second half of Saturday’s season finale with a final score of 24-10.
Tensions were high before the Aggie-Eagle Classic began as players on both sides got involved in a mid-field scuffle during warm-ups. Eagles junior defensive back Davanta Reynolds was ejected from the game with both teams also receiving personal fouls.
Penalties were both a major factor and a testament to the schools’ bitter rivalry—there were 27 in total, most of them for unsportsmanlike conduct on both teams.
NCCU’s offense struggled with consistency throughout the game to amass only 215 yards while A&T put up 358 and kept Eagles defense on their heels.
Both teams were scoreless throughout the first 15 minutes of play, but A&T receiver Elijah Bell ended the scoring drought with a 13-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Lamar Raynard in the second quarter.
NCCU struck back, driving down the field to complete a 52-yard field goal to make the score 7-3 going into halftime.
The third quarter saw running back Marquell Cartwright give the Aggies a comfortable lead with back-to-back touchdowns near the goal line. Despite trailing by 18 points at the time, the Eagles capitalized with a successful drive of their own that ended with a 3-yard score by sophomore running back Isaiah Totten to close out the quarter.
As the Eagles tried to come back in the fourth quarter, an offensive holding penalty negated a critical 3rd down scramble by quarterback Chauncey Caldwell on third-and-8. The Eagles ended up punting three times on four possessions during the period.
A&T’s success secured the team its first sole Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference championship since 2003 and their second Celebration Bowl appearance. If they win at the Bowl, the Aggies will have the first-ever undefeated season by a MEAC team since the league started in 1971.
This win is also A&T’s first win against NCCU since head coach Jerry Mack assumed the position in 2013.
“They (A&T) made more plays than us when it came down to it,” Mack explained to reporters after the game. “That’s why they are champs.”
The team looks to grow through this devastating loss and begin making changes going into the offseason. Many of NCCU’s seniors will be gone next year, leading to young players being closely evaluated.
“You live and you learn,” Mack said. “We will add pieces to the puzzle and be right back in contention next year.”