AGGIE STADIUM/GREENSBORO It’s an early evening start for N.C. Central’s game at North Carolina A&T, which the official program is touting as “The Greatest Football Rivalry in North Carolina.”

At least in terms of intensity, it certainly has to be in the argument.

Say it with me, boys and girls. These two teams just do not like each other.

They’ve been playing almost since World War I, and are former rivals in both the CIAA and MEAC. Next season they’ll be MEAC rivals once again as the Eagles – who won’t be able to compete for the title until 2011-12 – will be official members of the conference.

Mose Rison’s Eagles come in with an 0-4 record that might have been 2-2, on the heels of a 49-14 loss to Duke a week ago in the inaugural Bull City Gridiron Classic.

A&T is 2-2 and attempting to break a two-game losing streak.

And the Aggies have a little chip on their shoulder coming into a nearly full house, as NCCU has won three straight in the series.

Let’s wade through the big, late-arriving crowd, grab a press box roast beef sandwich and see what happens.

From the outset it’s very obvious the Aggies – who break the NCCU spell with a 23-17 win in two overtimes – are ready to play.

A&T takes the opening kickoff and goes 72 yards in eight plays, with Carlton Fears hitting Wallace Miles from 37 yards out. Patrick Courtney adds the kick and it’s 7-0 with 9:53 left in the quarter.

A&T takes the opening kickoff and goes 72 yards in eight plays, with Carlton Fears hitting Wallace Miles from 37 yards out. Patrick Courtney adds the kick and it’s 7-0 with 9:53 left in the quarter.

The Aggies double their lead later in the quarter, following Michael Ferrell’s interception of a Michael Johnson pass at the NCCU 37. Seven plays later Tony Coles bulls in from a yard out, and Courtney’s kick makes it 14-0 at the 3:40 mark.

A&T gets its next points following another interception, as Justin Ferrell intercepts Johnson and returns it to the Eagles’ 25. Courtney finishes the drive with a 34-yard field goal and the Aggies are up 17-0 with 10:40 left in the half.

Keon Williams steps in for Johnson behind center and the Eagles are able to get something going before Frankie Cardelle missed a 49-yard field goal wide right with 5:08 left in the half.

But the Eagles get another shot later in the half. Williams hits Will Scott for a career-longest 62-yard sprint in the middle of a six-play, 80-yard drive, which ends in a two-yard bullet to Saeed Abdul-Azeez and Cardelle’s boot with 17 seconds remaining before intermission.

Johnson is back in at quarterback to start the second half and turns the ball over on a fumble at the NCCU 46. This time the Eagles dodge it, as Courtney’s 32-yard field goal attempt is wide left.

The Eagles get something going again early in the fourth, as Johnson hits Scott for a 73-yard touchdown bomb and Cardelle adds the kick with 12:28 to go.

And they tie it with 2:36 left, as Cardelle hits from 20 to finish a seven-play, 48-yard drive.

The Aggies have a chance to win in regulation, but Courtney’s 37-yard field-goal attempt in the closing seconds is not well struck and dies.

A&T has the ball first in overtime and Courtney gets another chance, but misses from 29 wide left.

The Eagles try a field goal on second down from the 10, but the Aggies block it.

NCCU runs out of downs to start the second overtime, and on third and 9 from the 24 the Aggies get the winner when Fears hits Miles inside the 5 and he goes in untouched.

They said it …

NCCU coach Mose Rison: “I have to give (A&T) coach (Alonzo) Lee and his staff credit. His team fought hard to the very end, and when it was all said and done they found a way to end the game. … (But) we had some personal fouls that cost us the football game. It’s unacceptable that that happened. Our football team is very disappointed.”

Lee: “Our biggest thing was to do this for the seniors. No doubt Central has a good football team. They’ve played everybody tough. They’ve got great athletes and we had to go out and fight. But our seniors had never beat Central and we wanted to send them out with a bang.”

Fears: “I knew when Coach called that pass I was going to complete it. The touchdown was going to happen.”

What does it all mean?

That the Aggies are back on track for their first winning season since 2003, while NCCU will have to shock the world with an upset of Appalachian State on Saturday and then run the table to avoid a sub-. 500 finish.

Stars of the game

1. Fears, with 224 yards total offense and two touchdown passes.

2. Miles, with four catches for 101 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

3. Scott, with five catches for 179 yards and a touchdown.

Play of the game

The winning touchdown pass from Miles to Fears.

All-time series

A&T leads 46-30-5.


NCCU: Lost 5.

A&T: Won 1.

On deck

NCCU at Appalachian State, Oct. 10, 3:30 p.m.

N.C. A&T at Morgan State, Oct. 10, 1 p.m.