William E. Ricks | Contributing Writer
The Hampton University football team will be preparing for their conference-scheduled games after playing the Monmouth University Hawks, on September 23. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference is wide open this year, credit to the lack of a powerhouse team in the conference. The majority of the teams in the MEAC are either 1-1 or 0-2 after two weeks.
This means that, if Hampton can take advantage of this and start a win streak, the Pirates could be in contention for the conference championship when the season comes to an end. Winning the MEAC will clinch a spot to play in the Celebration Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Dome in Atlanta, Georgia. This would be the first time they’d be playing in the bowl game since it started in 2015.
The Hampton football team is already starting off well, as they defeated Delaware State, another MEAC team, 28-15. After this, they will not play another conference game until they travel to Savannah, Georgia to take on the Savannah State Tigers on October 7. In the following weeks the Pirates will continue to play other conference foes such as Norfolk State, Bethune-Cookman, and Howard University to name a few. Hampton had a record of 5-3 in the MEAC last year, with losses coming from North Carolina A&T, Florida A&M, and Norfolk State.
The Pirates averaged 21 points per game in their MEAC conference games last year. Their offense is looking much better this year with leaders Delmon Williams and Yahkee Johnson carrying the load for the team. Williams threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns vs. Delaware State and Johnson rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown. Both players are vital parts to the Pirates and are looking to build on their great performances.
Winning conference games are important, however, there are other worries as well. One of those could be their out-of-conference schedule. In 2016, the Pirates lost all three games last year. They only played one game thus far, and it resulted in a loss courtesy of Ohio University in week one. Hampton’s other two out-of-conference games like these are against Livingstone and Monmouth.
All of Hampton’s conference games seem winnable, but it will be on the shoulders of Delmon Williams and the offense. If they can put points on the board consistently, many of their MEAC opponents will be incapable of keeping up with the high scoring. Playing in the Celebration Bowl will be a huge milestone for the university, but the team must take it one game at a time and, most importantly, dominate their MEAC opponents.