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Undefeated N.C. A&T and OT Brandon Parker are focused on championships

Team is ranked No. 6 in latest FCS poll, but goal is Celebration Bowl berth

Many chase perfection, but few actually obtain it. The North Carolina A&T State University football team is more than halfway through the 2017 football season and has yet to accumulate a single blemish on its record. The Aggies are 8-0 and have their sights set on a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) championship and a Celebration Bowl title.

For offensive left tackle Brandon Parker, it’s important to take the season one game at a time.

“For right now, my main focus is to take it one week at a time and win every game as it gets here so that way we can reach the ultimate team goal we all set,” said Parker.

After spoiling Florida A&M University’s homecoming by defeating the Rattlers 31-20 and obtaining the No. 11 spot in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) poll last week, the Aggies’ main priority was getting prepared for their matchup against Bethune-Cookman on Oct. 21. They accomplished that task by beating Bethune-Cookman and moved up to No. 6 in this week’s FCS ranking.

Being scheduled for FAMU’s homecoming did provide the Aggies some extra motivation as they traveled down to Tallahassee, Parker said.

“We felt very disrespected. It just tells us how very little respect they have for us, to schedule us like we aren’t A&T, like we didn’t almost win the championship outright last year, like we didn’t almost blow them out at our house last year,” Parker said. “So we said we are going to come down here and disrespect them right back. We are going to take their homecoming and turn it into our homecoming, and that’s exactly what we did.”

The win in Tallahassee solidified North Carolina A&T as the top team in the MEAC for at least another week, and it also brought the Aggies into national FCS championship contention.

North Carolina A&T is the highest-ranked historically black college or university (HBCU) in the FCS — Grambling State is No. 13 — but Parker believes they could still be a couple of spots higher.

“Obviously, some of the negative things about being an HBCU is regardless of who you play and who you beat, you might not get the respect you deserve,” Parker said.

After a disappointing loss to rival North Carolina Central cost them a trip to the 2016 Celebration Bowl, the Aggies have seemed to bounce back even stronger coming into the MEAC season.

Parker attributes this record-setting year to his coaches.

“I’ve got to give a little more credit to the coaches because they did a better job of pushing us in the offseason and made sure we understood the value of finishing,” said Parker. “They made us understand that losing to [North Carolina] Central like that wasn’t acceptable, so they did a great job of pushing us to make sure we were battle-tested this year. “

The Aggies hope their training will translate into a championship finish. On Saturday, the Aggies have a bye before traveling to face Norfolk State in a game that could determine the MEAC champion. The Spartans upset North Carolina Central 28-21 last week, setting up next weekend’s showdown.

Donovan Dooley is a former Rhoden Fellow and a multimedia journalism major from Tuscaloosa, AL. He attends North Carolina Agricultural & Technical University.