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    NCCU head coach Jerry Mack leads the Eagles out of the tunnel on Oct. 31. Photo by Markell Pitchford / Echo staff photographer

Eagles top Spartans in Homecoming game, keep MEAC hopes alive

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N.C. Central kept its MEAC championship hopes alive Saturday, beating Norfolk State 24-16 in front of a Homecoming crowd of 11,965 at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.

Quarterback Malcolm Bell completed 13 of 26 passes for 193 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown connection to wide receiver Armani Lanier which broke a 7-7 tie and gave the Eagles a lead they never looked back from.  That touchdown pass was NCCU’s longest passing touchdown since Oct. 30, 1999.

Bell also ran the ball for 88 yards.  Running back Dorrel McClain led NCCU with 93 yards rushing and two touchdowns.

The players were hyped by the enthusiastic, sellout crowd.  Bell said there’s “nothing like an HBCU homecoming.”

“The atmosphere was one of a kind,” Bell added. “We appreciate the support as always. You guys motivate us to come out and put on a good show each and every week.”

“Saturday was amazing with the atmosphere on the field,” Lanier said.  “Just seeing the stadium filled with all the students and the alumni was something special. We couldn’t do any of this without the fans.  They fill the stadium and shake it on third downs, and we can’t thank you guys enough for that.”

By taking a first-quarter lead by the Spartans, Norfolk State gave the Eagles a Halloween scare early in the game until Lanier’s touchdown pass changed the momentum of the game in the fourth quarter.

“After the catch I couldn’t even hear myself think,” Lanier said. “I honestly just wanted to make a big play for my team, and that 77-yard play was amazing.  It was a great throw by my quarterback Malcolm Bell.”

Bell also gave credit to Lanier for making the catch.

“Armani continues to get better and more confident each and every week,” Bell said. “He stepped in up big-time this game.”

The Eagles have won four consecutive games after starting the season 1-3.

“Going into next game our main focus is to clean up the little things we’re doing wrong and making sure we don’t make the same mistakes,” Lanier said.

The Eagles are 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the conference.  They are in 3rd place in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.

The Eagles will host Delaware State on Nov. 7 at O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium for a MEAC showdown at 2 p.m.

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