After a 644 day absence due to the Coronavirus outbreak, the North Carolina Central Eagles stunned the reigning, defending SWAC Champion Alcorn State Braves 23-14 at Center Parc Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday night, taking home the Cricket MEAC | SWAC Challenge trophy in the process.

In front of a nationally televised audience, Alcorn State struck first as senior quarterback Felix Harper hooked up with Juan Anthony Jr. on a 20-yard touchdown strike.

Manny Smith of the Eagles recovered a Harper fumble in the second quarter, as the game became a battle for field position.

For the NCCU offense, Davius Richard was the metronome that kept everything on schedule. The 6’3″, 200 pound sophomore from Belle Glade, Florida finished the game completing 16 of 25 passes for 184 yards. On the ground, he ran for 64 yards on nine attempts and two scores. He would be named the offensive MVP.

“I want to thank God and my teammates for putting their all on the field,” Richard said. “That’s why we came out on top. We never doubted, we didn’t look at the scoreboard, we just kept playing until we saw the zeroes on the scoreboard. I wouldn’t be able to do the things I did without them.”

The Braves answered that score as Harper connected with sophomore running back Niko Duffey on a four-yard touchdown reception to make the score 14-13. The point after was no good.

North Carolina Central would take over the game thereafter. Sophomore place-kicker Adrian Olivo made a 28-yard field goal at the 13:39 mark in the fourth quarter. However, sophomore defensive back, Brandon Codrington took an Alcorn State punt 77 yards to the house, effectively putting the game out of reach.

“It was all about us,” said NCCU head coach Trei Oliver during his postgame press conference. “Obviously watching film from 2019, we had to control what we could control – our emotions, our eyes, and discipline. Our guys know that I am not on social media like that, I’ll like and retweet, but I am not going to sit there and type and take selfies. My guys know that, if that do it, okay. We watched ESPN this morning and watched the United States of America pick Alcorn to win. But it didn’t matter, as long as everyone in that locker room believed, it was all good.”

 

Smith finished the game as the defensive MVP after he recorded 10 total tackles and a sack to go with the aforementioned fumble recovery.

Meanwhile for Alcorn, one statistic they can identify as a point of emphasis was the fact they went 1-for-1o on third down.

“Hats off to North Carolina Central and coach Oliver, they have a good football team over there,” said Alcorn State head coach Fred McNair. “For us, we just have to get back to doing things that we do best, and that’s execute. We didn’t finish drives and didn’t compete the way we should have down in the red zone.”

With the loss of North Carolina A&T from the MEAC and coupled the defections of Bethune Cookman and Florida A&M to the SWAC, it was up to NC Central to represent for the Mid Eastern Athletic Conference. It was not lost on Oliver’s mind.

“Yeah, we have a chip on our shoulder,” Oliver said. “Why is there is so much talk about the SWAC, and we have owned Atlanta for the last 14 years? I don’t get it. We play good ball in the MEAC. And not to take anything away from the SWAC, I was down there. I played and coached there for several years. But we play good ball in the MEAC. I know we lost A&T, FAMU, and Bethune, but we have won championships since those last two have won. We play good football and will continue to play good football in the MEAC. At least in Durham, North Carolina we will.”

 

Photo By: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...