Aggies all in for Aggie-Eagle Classic by Derrick Wheeler
In arguably the biggest rivalry game in HBCU football, the Eagles of North Carolina Central University will face the Aggies of North Carolina A&T State University.
Both schools serve as top teams in the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference. For the last three years, the conference champions have gone through N.C A&T and NCCU. Last season, the Eagles defeated the Aggies in Durham to secure the MEAC championship title. In addition to winning the title, NCCU also represented the conference in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.
Since the creation of the Celebration Bowl two years ago, both teams had made an appearance for the MEAC. N.C. A&T was chosen to represent the conference in Atlanta during the 2015 season, ultimately winning the title of the best HBCU football team in the nation.
N.C. A&T faced off against Alcorn State University, the representative for the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The game was very exciting to watch as the first quarter saw two punt returns for a touchdown, and two long runs of 83 and 74 yards by now Chicago Bears running back Tarik Cohen. The Aggies went on to win the game over the Braves 41-34.
Last season NCCU had the chance to put the MEAC up 2-0 in the series, facing Grambling State University. In a strong defensive matchup, a total of 19 points were scored in the entire game. Grambling State was able to walk away with a victory after they were able to stop the Eagles from tying the game with a blocked PAT.
In the Aggies most recent matchup, The Tigers of Savannah State University made a visit to Aggie Stadium where the Aggies would go on to have a dominate game. Running back, Marquell Cartwright, and quarterback, Lamar Raynard, had record breaking performances against the Tigers.
Cartwright had another 100 yard performance, putting up 127 yards for two scores. This game put him over the 1,000 yard mark for the season. In the last eight seasons, A&T has had seven rushers run for over 1,000 yards.
While running the ball has always been a primary factor in the Aggie offense, having such a versatile quarterback in Lamar Raynard takes some of the pressure off of the MEAC’s leading rusher.
Raynard had yet another outstanding game, throwing for 252 yards and two touchdowns which helped him break former N.C. A&T quarterback, Alan Hooker’s 32 year old single season record for touchdown passes with 25, surpassing Hookers 24. Raynard now has the single season record for passing yards, touchdowns responsible for, passing touchdowns, completions, and total offense
Not only did the team walk away with a victory, they also walked away with at least a share of the MEAC championship title. NCCU lost in the closing moment to Bethune- Cookman to help boost the Aggies a step closer to a title. Howard University is still in the hunt with a conference record 6-1.
In a statement released Monday evening, the MEAC announced N.C. A&T will be the representative for the conference in this year’s Celebration Bowl next month, Dec. 17 in Atlanta at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. Possible scenarios that could play out this weekend are as follows;
- If N.C. A&T wins, and Howard loses then the Aggies will be the outright MEAC champions with a 8-0 conference record, and will go on to the Celebration Bowl,
- If N.C. A&T loses and Howard wins, N.C. A&T and Howard will be named co-champions. N.C. A&T will go on to the Celebration Bowl, while Howard and other eligible teams will have a chance at a postseason berth in the Football Championship Subdivision Championship,
- If both N.C. A&T and Howard lose, then N.C. A&T will be the outright MEAC champion with a 7-1 conference record, and will go on to the Celebration Bowl.
The Aggies are set to face off with the Eagles at 1pm this Saturday, Nov. 18 at Aggie Stadium. Students, fans, and alumni, are encouraged to come out and support the Aggies as they attempt to not only complete their regular season undefeated, but to finally get their first outright MEAC championship of the Broadway era. There can only be one winner of one of the fiercest HBCU football rivalries in the country, and Saturday will determine what team can be crowned the best.