It was all about the fives Saturday afternoon at the Benz. Fifth-year senior Kylil Carter led the Aggies to a 64-44 win in the 5th Celebration Bowl and ended the Alcorn State seniors’ hopes of being the first Braves squad to beat their post-season nemesis.
Given the success the team has had here in a city that boasts one of the school’s largest alumni chapters outside of North Carolina, don’t be surprised if you start to hear Aggie-lanta loosely thrown about.
The Aggies’ fourth appearance was in doubt after dropping conference games to Florida A&M and Morgan State with two games remaining. After dispatching the Wildcats of Bethune-Cookman 47-17, only cross-state rival North Carolina Central blocked the path to a return trip down I-85. Fifty-four unanswered points and roughly three hours later the rematch was set.
Big plays and slug-outs have become the norm in the two previous games between the Braves and Aggies. In the 2015 Celebration Bowl, the Braves were in control through the first half. The Aggies, led by Chicago Bears running back and eventual game Offensive MVP Tarik Cohen’s 295-yards rushing, mounted a thrilling 34-point second half to win the inaugural bowl game.
After a one-year hiatus for the Aggies and a two-year hiatus for the Braves, the Mid-Eastern Athletic (MEAC) and Southwest Athletic Conference (SWAC) champions reunited in the 2018 edition. This time North Carolina A&T took control of the game early and it was Alcorn State that needed some smelling salts to wake them up in the second half. Only a controversial call in the endzone (see photo ) kept the series from being even at 1-1.
Neither team seemed ready to take it in the first quarter. Alcorn State managed a field goal to keep the goose egg on the scoreboard to one. A&T’s scoring prowess on both sides of the ball returned in the second quarter. Carter tossed two of his six touchdowns and freshman linebacker and Defensive MVP Jacob Roberts picked off Braves quarterback Felix Harper to set up a field goal. When the smoke cleared the Aggies had a 14-10 lead going into the half.
Head coach Fred McNair had the Braves fired up for the second half. Maybe a little too fired up. On the first play of the second half, Aggies junior running back Jah-Maine Martin hit up the sidelines for a 75-yard touchdown. Unfazed, Harper led the Braves on a 10-play scoring drive on the ensuing drive. What resulted next was a defensive coach’s nightmare. The two conference champions combined for seven touchdowns over the next 11 minutes.
The scoring slowed down in the final quarter with a grand total of 25 points scored as the Aggies claimed their fourth and third in-a-row Celebration Bowl victory.
All Photos by Jason McDonald, CORE360 Sports