With Christmas looming right around the corner, bells ringing and children screaming, what better way to “celebrate” the holidays than watching the 3rd Annual Celebration Bowl Game; featuring the undefeated North Carolina A&T Aggies (12-0) and the Grambling State University Tigers (11-1).
A match-up that displayed two extraordinary individuals on both teams. Grambling’s QB DeVante Kincade and North Carolina A&T’s QB Lamar Raynard, who will also be a part of the four finalists for this year’s HBCU player of the year award.
This was the debut of the Celebration Bowl Game in the newly built Mercedes Benz Dome in front of over 25,000 die-hard fans, who were ready for this highly anticipated match-up that definitely lived up to its hype.
The first quarter was definitely a defensive showcase with both offenses being held to zero points after having the ball on two separate possessions.
But it would not take long to get things rolling in the second quarter. NCA&T strikes first after a Grambling fumble on their own 25-yard line; this would turn into seven points quickly with an 11-yard pass from QB Raynard to RB Cartwright to give the Aggies the first score of the game with 4:58 seconds left in the second quarter.
On the ensuing possession, Grambling says you won’t outdo us; putting together a 70-yard drive, led by Al-star QB Kincade who hits TE Jordan Jones on a play-action bootleg for the 2-yard pass and catch that tied the game at seven right before the half.
Usually, halftime is when you go to the concession stands or use the bathroom but not for this occasion which featured two of HBCU’s best bands in the land. The Famed Tiger Marching Band and The North Carolina Aggies Marching Band.
Now, the first half of play may not have had fans out of there seats, but hearing the electrifying sounds of these bands; fans had no choice but to get out of those chairs and jam. The atmosphere was loud, rocking and passionate.
There is just a different sound that transpires when you hear an HBCU band; almost as if the music is inside you.
The start of the second half was just like the first with slow starts from both offenses.
But the Tigers found their offense and drove the ball down to the Aggies red zone where QB Kincade through a costly interception by NCA&T’s CB Frank McCain III that may have cost his team the ball game.
That interception would give QB Raynard and the Aggie offense the boost it needed to create their own mythical drive, except this time with a different outcome.
Aggies march down the field into Grambling territory and on a 2nd down, Marquell Cartwright runs for a 29-yard touchdown to give NCA&T a 14-7 lead with 7:36 remaining in the third.
But this game was far from over. Grambling comes back on the field in the fourth quarter behind QB Kincade and drives the ball 80-yards for the score with a beautiful 29-yard pass to RB Martez Carter that tied things up at 14 with 14:16 left in the fourth quarter.
With offenses going back and forth in the fourth quarter. The game comes down to Aggies on the Tigers goal line for the go-ahead score. QB Lamar Raynard takes a QB sneak right up the gut for the game-winning score with 38 seconds on the clock.
A valiant effort by the Grambling Tigers who were looking to win back to back championships. A well-played game by the SWAC Champions. This win gives the MEAC Conference a 2-1 led in battles at the Celebration Bowl games against the SWAC and North Carolina A&T it’s second HBCU National Championship.
After the game, Aggies coach Rod Broadway spoke and said, “We played a great team in Grambling, we just made more plays” “That’s what you have to do to win in championship games.”
Another great HBCU National Championship in the books North Carolina A&T 21, Grambling State University Tigers 14. Until next year.