by Mike Potter
It might take a day or two to get this one out of their systems.
For the third straight football season N.C. Central opened the campaign with a painful loss, dropping a 31-24 decision to host MEAC power Hampton at Armstrong Stadium.
LaMarcus Coker went 29 yards for the game-winning touchdown with just 1:28 left before the Pirates tacked on a two-point conversion to complete the scoring. That tally was set up by a bad snap on an NCCU punt attempt, with the touchdown coming two plays later.
NCCU was flagged 13 times for 106 penalty yards.
The Eagles had a balanced attack, with 284 yards total offense including 152 rushing yards.
Michael Johnson completed nine of 21 passes for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns - with two interceptions - and scored NCCU's other touchdown on the ground. Tim Shankle (pictured) led the running attack with 58 yards on 10 carries.
Will Scott caught three passes for 18 yards and a touchdown while Geo Irvine added a 34-yard touchdown catch. True freshman Frankie Cardelle hit a 30-yard field goal for NCCU.
Linebacker Calvin Hillie had seven tackles including 2 ½ for losses and a forced fumble to lead the NCCU defense.
Hampton quarterback David Legree completed 10 of 18 passes for 140 yards and a touchdown, while Damon McDaniel returned a punt 82 yards for a score and also caught a touchdown pass.
Coker had 59 yards on nine carries.