N.C. A&T Aggies are atop of the HBCU Football world once again. Since the inaugural Celebration Bowl in 2015, the Aggies have made it to three out of the first four and have gone undefeated in doing so.
Each year the game is held in Atlanta, Georgia and it is between the champions of the Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) and Southwestern Conference.
N.C. A&T Aggies and the Alcorn State Braves were the two teams to represent each conference.
The Aggies were the favored team by 7.5 but, despite the odds, the Braves were still champions of their own and weren’t going down without a fight.
The game was held on Saturday, Dec. 15 with an attendance of more than 30,000 which was the second most in the history of the Celebration Bowl. The inaugural game still holds the record with more than 35,000.
Official attendance for today’s game – 31,672
Second most in event history, only topped by the inaugural 2015 game
THANK YOU FANS! pic.twitter.com/Ws3GiPTN5U
— Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (@CelebrationBowl) December 15, 2018
The Aggies got off to a quick start on its first possession of the game and marched down the field, which only took them five plays going for 65-yards.
Lamar Raynard threw a 17-yard pass to wideout Zachary Leslie, for his first touchdown of the game; the score gave the Aggies a 7-0 lead.
The Braves managed to score three points, on a 29-yard field goal by Corey McCullough, late in the first quarter. By the end of the first, the score was 7-3 and the Aggies continued to pour it on offensively in the second quarter.
Despite the Aggies’ running game being visually non-existent Lamar Raynard managed to throw another touchdown pass to the team’s leading receiver, Elijah Bell with only 53 seconds left in the first half. That touchdown grab was Bell’s 25 of his career making him the Aggies’ all-time leader in touchdown receptions.
At the end of the first half, the score was 17-6 and the Aggies were only two more quarters closer to another bowl victory.
Despite the poor performance offensively by the Braves in the first half, that was not the case in the second as the offense looked rejuvenated. With less than five minutes left in the third quarter the SWAC Offensive Player of the Year, Noah Johnson, scored on a 30-yard touchdown run making the score 17-13.
Momentum was in the hands of the Braves, as they managed to tack on three more points on a 29-yard field goal with 51 seconds left to go in the third bringing the Braves within one point, 17-16.
HIGHLIGHTS: After a late rally, the Alcorn State Braves came up short in the Celebration Bowl, falling 24-22 to North Carolina A&T. @BRAVESSPORTS
— Samaria Terry (@samariaterry) December 16, 2018
Shortly after the Braves’ last score the MEAC Return Specialist of the Year, Malik Wilson, regained momentum back for the Aggies after returning the next kickoff for a 79-yard touchdown, with 38 seconds, sucking the life out of the Braves’ team and fans.
At the start of the fourth quarter the score was 24-16 and the Braves’ run game was nearly unstoppable.
The Braves rushed for a total of 328 yards against the Aggies’ stout front seven on defense and its quarterback, Johnson scored the last touchdown of the game on a 59-yard rush.
A controversial call ruled Johnson’s passing attempt incomplete and the lead remained 24-22, in favor of the Aggies.
As for the remainder of the fourth quarter, the Aggies’ offense ran out the clock and came out victorious 24-22 over a great Alcorn State team.
— The Undefeated (@TheUndefeated) December 16, 2018
The Aggies became back to back Celebration Bowl champions and the victory marks its second against Alcorn State in the big game.
Raynard was the Offensive MVP of the game as he threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensive back Richie Kittle was the defensive MVP of the game for the Aggies.
— Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (@CelebrationBowl) December 16, 2018
The dynasty in Greensboro, North Carolina lives on as N.C. A&T football team added another championship trophy to their two others.