Harrington Gardiner | Contributing Writer
After a three-point loss to Bethune-Cookman in Daytona Beach, Fla., the Pirates face their toughest test of the season this upcoming weekend against North Carolina Central.
Central is coming off an impressive 42-14 homecoming win against Delaware State, and now the Eagles will come to town sitting a game above the Pirates with a 6-2 record. The Pirates, however, are sitting at 5-3 with a 4-1 record in MEAC play and must now put Saturday’s loss to the side to focus on this much-anticipated matchup.
Prior to this past Saturday’s game, Hampton coaches acknowledged the importance of the inter-conference battle against NC Central. However, like any team, they were focused on the task ahead: to handle Bethune-Cookman on the road.
Pirates defensive coordinator Kevin Ketchum stressed the importance of focusing on the task ahead.
“We know Central is very good; they’ve lost one game in this last three years in the league, and that was last week to Norfolk State,” Ketchum said. “Do we have a game plan? No. We have our plan of how to practice, and you don’t change that.”
Ketchum also discussed the Pirates’ 5-2 record and the landscape for the rest of the season in MEAC play.
“So far, 5-2 has been successful, but there’s four left,” he said. “Now, with four left, that can go 9-2, or that can go 5-6. I don’t see anything that would lead me to believe that any of the last four are going to be easy.”
Injuries are another factor that could decimate a football team, and they have impacted some games already. Ketchum addressed that by saying, “You’re deep into the season, so try to get some kids who are hurt back onto the field so that you have a full complement of players to be ready for Saturday.”
The Pirates fell just short on Saturday afternoon against Bethune-Cookman. They had 125 yards rushing along with one rushing touchdown and a 6.8 passing average per attempt. Hampton also had two passing touchdowns, both of which were thrown by quarterback Delmon Williams to wide receiver Ronald Bell. Bell had 119 all-purpose yards, 79 of which were receiving.
This game had been controlled by Bethune-Cookman for the first half, but after halftime, Hampton came back to take a lead late in the third quarter. Even after the Pirates took a 21-17 lead, the Eagles scored late in the fourth quarter with a 7-yard touchdown pass by wide receiver Jawill Davis, making it a 24-21 game.
In heartbreaking fashion, the Pirates were unable to tie the game toward the end, as kicker Adam Brown missed a 29-yard field goal that would have sent the game to overtime.
Hampton did struggle late in Saturday’s game, but with time to regroup, the Pirates should be ready to play arguably their most important game of the season. NC Central, however, has plenty of momentum heading into this Saturday after a dominating performance against Delaware State. With that being said, they’ll be confident in trying to gain MEAC supremacy over Hampton.
The Pirates will look to secure a win to stay on track of what already seems to be a promising year so far.