Carl Jones could barely stomach watching his archrival, N.C. A&T, win the inaugural Air Force Celebration Bowl in December.
North Carolina Central had defeated the Aggies in the regular-season finale for the second season in a row, which created a three-way tie for the MEAC championship. (Bethune-Cookman was the third team.)
But A&T won the tiebreaker and represented the conference against SWAC opponent Alcorn State, which the Aggies won 41-34 to earn the black college national championship.
“I watched it, most of it, although towards the end I kinda got a little sick,” the redshirt senior offensive lineman said, only half jokingly. “I was happy for them representing the MEAC, but I felt like we should have been there.”
NCCU could “have been there” if not for a missed assignment with 32 seconds left against Bethune-Cookman. Place kicker Nigel Macauley’s field-goal attempt was blocked, giving the Wildcats the win.
“Still haven’t gotten over that game yet,” coach Jerry Mack said. “We still have to find a way to close things out in the last seconds. The last two years, we’ve been up in the fourth quarter and haven’t gotten over the hump, and that’s one part of the program that we’ve still got to grow in.”
N.C. Central went 7-5 in 2014 in Mack’s first year as head coach. The Eagles finished 2015 with an 8-3 record – the Eagles’ the most wins in any season as a Division I-FCS program.
The Eagles began their off-season practices on March 7, worked out for a week, and then had spring break. They got back to work this week, and they will cap their spring practices with NCCU’s annual spring game at 6 p.m. April 8 in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Jones is one of a few seniors left on the team after the departure of several key starters, including Ryan Smith, Quinn Billerman, Zachary Giles and C.J. Moore.
While the position of quarterback appears stable with the return of redshirt junior Malcolm Bell, Mack says redshirt freshman Naiil Ramadan will keep the injured Bell on his toes.
“To be honest with you, Naiil is doing an excellent job of leading our offense,” Mack said. “He’s grown in just the three practices.”
But does a coach really want to put his team in the hands of a freshman?
“It depends on how mature he is as a freshman,” Mack answered. “I hope Malcolm won’t have more pride and let a freshman quarterback come in here and challenge him for the job. … In these days, backup quarterbacks have to be just as good as starters.”
Jones has played on both back-to-back co-championship teams, and with his final year coming in the fall, he’s not looking to go out without a trophy.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling; you know, the beginning of the end, so I’m trying to take it all in and soak it up,” he said at spring practice. “We’re going for the three-peat this year – three times in a row.”
The Eagles will cap their spring practice with NCCU’s annual spring game at 6 p.m. April 8 in O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium.
Editor’s note: An earlier version of this report listed Quentin Atkinson among those seniors graduating from the NCCU football program. Atkinson reports that he received a medical hardship exemption and will return to NCCU for a final season this fall.
Lyn Adams, coach of the Raleigh-Durham-based Carolina Elite AAU basketball club, was recently honored with a Positive Coaching Alliance’s Double-Goal Coach Award for his positive impact on youth athletes.
Adams is one of 50 recipients to receive the award, which includes a $200 prize.
“Lyn helps his athletes win on and off the court,” PCA founder Jim Thompson said. “By creating a positive, character-building youth sports experience and serving as a Double-Goal coach, Ly helps youth develop into better athletes and better people.”
Adams co-founded Carolina Elite for girls and boys in fourth through eighth grade. The program won 2015 AAU national titles for both fifth- and sixth-grade boys.
“We strive to be strong, yet humble, with respect for everyone, including refs, other coaches, other players and fans, despite how difficult that can be,” Adams said. “I remind them constantly how sometimes in life you only get one shot – better make it count.”
The Eagles will cap their spring practice with NCCU’s annual spring game at 6 p.m. April 8 in O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium.