Aggies Expected to Win MEAC Again


Aggies Expected to Win MEAC Again

EAST GREENSBORO, N.C. (July 31, 2019) – North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Aggies are expected to win their fifth Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) football title in six years and reach their third straight Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl game, the conference announced at its annual MEAC Football Press Luncheon in Norfolk, Va.

The MEAC also released its preseason all-conference teams with four Aggies – cornerback Mac McCain III (6-0, 175, RJR, Greensboro), defensive tackle Justin Cates (6-2, 257, GR, Goldsboro, N.C.), left tackle Marcus Pettiford (6-4, 286, RSR, Durham, N.C.) and right tackle Dontae Keys (6-4, 300, RJR, Fayetteville, N.C) – making first team.

Running back Jah-Maine Martin (5-10, 203, RJR, Conway, S.C.), wide receiver Elijah Bell (6-1, 225, SR, Wheeling, W.Va.) and linebacker Antoine Wilder (5-10, 199, RSR, Atlanta) earned preseason second-team accolades. Third team honors went to wide receiver Zachary Leslie (6-3, 203, RJR, Lawndale, N.C.), defensive lineman Jermaine Williams (6-1, 270, RSR, Lumberton, N.C.), linebacker Richie Kittles (5-10, 204, RSR, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and punter Michael Rivers (6-0, 170, SO, Wilmington, N.C.).

Aggies head coach Sam Washington, now in his second season, received 12 of the available 18 first-place votes to be considered preseason favorite to win the conference. Bethune-Cookman, with one first-place vote, is projected to finish second, followed by Florida A&M (two first-place votes) and Howard.

If the Aggies win the MEAC this season, it will be their third consecutive title and 11th overall. A fifth MEAC title in six years would give the Aggies the most dominant era in the conference since S.C. State won five of six from 1977-83.

Over the past five years, the Aggies are an impressive 34-5 (.872). Over the last three years, the Aggies are 21-2 (.913).

“We want to be in the top echelon of FCS teams and, in order to do that, you have to win your league year-in and year-out,” said Washington, the 2018 MEAC coach of the year. “Winning this league becomes harder and harder every year.

“There are a lot of good young coaches in this conference with tremendous talent on their teams. We’re looking forward to the challenge.”

Washington hopes to lead the Aggies to their third straight HBCU national title and their fourth in five years.

McCain, a two-time All-American and two-time first-team All-MEAC performer who is coming off a season-ending knee injury, will lead the Aggies in the defensive backfield. In his first two seasons with the Aggies, McCain has eight interceptions and 16 pass breakups. He was the Celebration Bowl MVP in 2017.

Cates was a first-team All-MEAC selection at the end of the 2018 season after posting 36 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks. He ranked 13th in the MEAC in sacks and 19th in tackles for loss, with 21.5 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks in his career.

Pettiford, considered one of the best linemen in Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) football, recently earned FCS first-team preseason lineup honors from College Football America Yearbook. Pettiford is a two-time first-team All-MEAC selection who played 687 snaps last season with eight knockdown blocks, only six missed assignments, a sack surrendered and two penalties called against him. He graded out at 79 percent last season.

At the Aggies’ other tackle position, Keys played 527 snaps and graded out at 72 percent. He gave up just two sacks and only had two penalties called against him.

The Aggies ranked third in total offense, second in scoring and first in red zone offense.

North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University’s 2019 campaign kicks off at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 31, at BB&T Stadium with a match-up against the Elon Phoenix. Both teams are expected to be nationally ranked when the season starts.