Throughout the offseason N.C. Central coach Jerry Mack preached to his players the importance of fighting through adversity.
N.C. Central didn’t face much in its opener against Division II St. Augustine’s. The Eagles dominated 72-0 Saturday night, posting one of the most lopsided wins in school history.
Mack said he was pleased with his team’s play.
“I really felt good about how they played four quarters,” he said. “That was one of the issues we had last year, relaxing on teams and taking things for granted. I thought they did a good job of executing to the best of their ability. If you got a chance to step on that football field, you try to dominate your opponent.”
If there was any early indication of how the game against might turn out, it was early in the first quarter.
On St. Augustine’s first possession, N.C. Central forced a punt. As St. Augustine’s long snapper snapped the ball, NCCU defensive back C.J. Moore broke free from the edge and blocked the punt.
The ball rolled into the end zone and he scooped it up and scored.
On the Eagles’ first offensive possession, less than two minutes later, N.C. Central quarterback Malcolm Bell threw a pass to tight end Nathan Scruggs inside the 5-yard line. Scruggs fumbled when he was tackled by a St. Augustine’s defender.
The ball rolled into the end zone, and three St. Augustine defenders pounced on the ball.
But it slipped out between their legs and N.C. Central running back Idreis Augustus recovered it for a touchdown to put the Eagles up 13-0 in just the first five minutes.
N.C. Central continued its dominance throughout the first half, partly because of its defense, and partly because of special teams – specifically Mike Jones.
Jones, a preseason first team All-MEAC selection, returned five punts for 145 yards, nearly breaking free on three of them.
His longest came in the second quarter for 48 yards, before he was stopped by the punter. His 145 yards broke a school record.
“The swat team did a tremendous job of just holding on to their blocks and making open holes for me to feed off of them and make cuts,” Jones said. “I believe I could have had two that I could have broke, but it’s going to come in time.”
Central’s defense was just as effective, holding down St. Augustine’s star running back Roderick Davenport.
Davenport, who ranks second on the school’s all-time leading rushing record, could only manage 24 yards on 11 carries. He is 522 yards away from breaking the school’s record.
The second half was much of the same. N.C. Central continued to pour it on. Even with their reserves.
St. Augustine’s came close to scoring in the third quarter. St. Augustine’s quarterback Julius Murphy threw a 50-yard pass to receiver Jamal Parker, who was tackled from behind inside the Eagles’ 30-yard line.
But N.C. Central’s defense held up again, forcing St. Augustine’s to kick a field goal, which they missed.
N.C. Central allowed just 106 yards.
N.C. Central is hoping to repeat as Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions this year. Jones said he has no doubt his team can do that.
“We can be really good,” Jones said. “It’s all about executing. Playing your assignments and getting your assignments done.”
N.C. Central plays Duke next week.
Jonathan M. Alexander: 919-829-4822, @jonmalexander1