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N.C. A&T headed to Celebration Bowl with 24-10 win over N.C. Central

Undefeated Aggies beat Eagles for first time in four seasons

Arguably the best rivalry in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference lived up to its billing Saturday.

The North Carolina A&T Aggies defeated the North Carolina Central Eagles 24-10. The Aggies came into the game versus their cross-state nemesis with a chance to finish the regular season undefeated, and the Eagles were motivated to spoil every part of the Aggies’ historic season.

The energy in Aggie Stadium was electric, and emotions were running high throughout the day. It was Senior Day, and moments before the game during the Senior Day presentation, North Carolina A&T senior left tackle Brandon Parker proposed to his girlfriend of four years in front of a packed stadium: “It feels good she’s been with me for four years now, so she’s the one,” said Parker. His girlfriend, Dominique Green, graciously accepted, but the pleasantries ended there.

Like most rivalry games, there was an intense feeling of animosity in the air, and it showed on the field. The game was riddled with unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and personal fouls on both sides and was a hard-hitting defensive struggle the entire first half.

An Elijah Bell touchdown reception from quarterback Lamar Raynard gave the Aggies a 7-0 advantage until the Eagles tacked on a late field goal right before the half to make the score 7-3 heading into intermission.

At halftime, it was time for the bands to take part. After exuberant performances from both bands, North Carolina A&T’s personal little drummer boy once again stole the show, leaving his imprint on this rivalry at an early age.

North Carolina A&T (11-0, 8-0 in MEAC) came out of the second half in a much better offensive flow. Running back Marquell Cartwright ran for two touchdowns in the third quarter, making the score 21-3. The Aggies were in control until a drive riddled with defensive penalties allowed North Carolina Central (7-4, 5-3 in MEAC) to score a touchdown early in the fourth quarter.

After multiple efforts for the Eagles’ offense, they just could not generate more points against the North Carolina A&T defense. The Aggies tacked on an insurance field goal and secured their first outright MEAC championship since 2003.

The scene immediately after the game was live. North Carolina A&T students rushed the field to celebrate an undefeated regular season and their first win over the Eagles in four years.

Parker, playing his last game in Aggie Stadium, said finally beating their archrivals after a three-game losing streak felt awesome.

“It feels great, man. For us the seniors who have been here three years in a row and gotten beat, man, it’s no feeling like this,” said Parker. “I had to come out physical. I had to be in rival mindset. I couldn’t take no stuff. I tried not to retaliate — you noticed the cheap stuff they were doing, but we still came out with the win.”

Freshman cornerback Franklin McCain III is excited that the work the team has put in is finally paying off.

“It feels good, man, hard work paying off. When you work hard for something and finally see the results, it feels good,” said McCain. “I remember when I was getting recruited. I watched them play in the Celebration Bowl for the first time, and I knew when I was coming here I wanted to be a part of it.”

After their victory, the Aggies have now cemented themselves as the first team in school history to finish the regular season unbeaten. The Aggies will look to accomplish the last part of their journey when they take on the Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) champion Dec. 16 in Atlanta at this year’s Celebration Bowl.

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