For three years in a row, N.C. Central University’s football team has been exceptionally successful. After an impressive comeback win over Hampton University last Saturday, a fourth championship seems possible.
NCCU was down 6-0 against the Pirates after the first quarter, but a spark from junior defensive back Davanta Reynolds kept the Pirates went scoreless for the rest of the game.
Reynolds recorded two interceptions on Saturday, including a game-winner late in the fourth quarter that was his sixth overall this season.
When asked how he held Hampton’s offense back for so long, Reynolds attributed it to watching footage of the team beforehand.
“Seeing how their quarterback throws the ball and how their receiver runs their route, I definitely knew I could get two (interceptions),” he said.
After a disappointing loss to Norfolk State the week before, the Eagles were determined to make the end of their season memorable.
Head coach Jerry Mack told reporters that the team’s Oct. 21 loss was the first time NCCU “felt defeat” in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference since 2015.
NCCU has been a force to be reckoned with in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference for the past few years. In both 2014 and 2015, Eagles football shared the MEAC championship with rival North Carolina A&T. In 2016, they were finally crowned sole conference champions after beating A&T for the third year in a row.
“We decided the Norfolk (State) game wasn’t going to define us,” freshman quarterback Chauncey Caldwell said. “We are a better team than that and determined to show our supporters the ‘real’ us.”
The Eagles kept their word with two wins in a row, keeping the championship dream alive.
Not only did NCCU defense keep Hampton to six points during Saturday’s game, they also put 14 points of their own on the board. Senior defensive lineman Ja’Quan Smith deflected a pass that was then intercepted and returned by sophomore defensive lineman Kawuan Cox for the Eagles’ first touchdown.
“It was hard work (with) a bunch of guys getting to the ball,” Cox said after the game. “It’s championship month and we have to get back to the Celebration Bowl; it’s something we strive for.”
NCCU’s second touchdown came just before halftime, when Caldwell found senior wide receiver Jacen Murphy for a 27-yard touchdown.
Murphy said that that touchdown gave the team the energy they needed to finish out the second half.
“We went into the locker room confident in the rest of the game,” he said. “We were going to come out and win.”
NCCU hopes to continue their win streak next week as they host the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats Nov. 11 at 2 p.m. inside O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium for Senior Day. It is NCCU’s last home game of the season.