Daily Press (Sunday)

HAMPTON 26, NORTH CAROLINA A&T 24 Pirates snap losing skid before big crowd

Zellous returns from injury, has big game

- By Michael Sauls

HAMPTON — Hampton snapped its three-game losing streak on Saturday in front of a sellout crowd at Armstrong Stadium.

The Pirates took down former MEAC and Big South foe North Carolina A&T 26-24 to put the cherry on top of homecoming.

A whopping 13,811 fans packed into Armstrong Stadium, making the most of the standing-roomonly section in a stadium that seats 12,000. It’s the most fans that have attended a Hampton football game at home since 2019 against Virginia University of Lynchburg.

“Our athletic director did a great job of getting everybody together,” Prunty said of Anthony D. Henderson. “And to have this kind of crowd, it takes a lot to do it. … This is complete teamwork, that’s what you’re seeing, by the athletic department and it starts with AD Henderson and his cabinet.”

With the win, Hampton gets back to .500, holds a 4-4 record and has a 2-3 mark in conference play, surpassing the Pirates’ CAA win total from last year.

“I feel like we should have more wins than this right now, honestly,” quarterbac­k Chris Zellous said. “For us, this is a big win and a great win, but at the end of the day, we know we got a lot more in the tank. So we’re going to use this as a stepping stool and try to rack up more wins to finish out the season strong.”

A 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Romon Copeland gave Hampton a 26-17 lead with 4:30 remaining in the third quarter. But David Laney’s 82-yard intercepti­on returned for a touchdown brought the Aggies to within two points with 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

North Carolina A&T only had one more offensive drive, but it ended in a fumble that Hampton recovered. Hampton was able to run the final 3 ½ minutes off the clock with an eight-play, 47-yard drive.

“Give A&T credit, they played hard,” Prunty said. “Coach (Vincent) Brown had his guys ready, they played a really good game. We just happened to make more plays than they did. Coach Brown is a good coach.”

Hampton was without three of its offensive stars last week against Delaware, but got two of them back against the Aggies.

Zellous and running back Elijah Burris both returned from injury against North Carolina A&T and helped carry the Pirates’ offense. Running back Darran Butts remained sidelined with an injury, and Prunty said he remains doubtful to return next week.

Hampton totaled 465 yards of offense and averaged 6.6 yards per play.

“All week at practice, I was just happy to be out there practicing,” Zellous said. “…To play in this game in front of all these people, I just felt great. I was happy to be out there and happy to be out there with Burris. We were laughing and smiling during the game, so it was a great feeling to be back here.”

Minus his one intercepti­on, Zellous was very efficient through the air. He finished the game 11 for 19 with 198 yards and two touchdowns and also led the Pirates on the ground with 89 rushing yards.

“I was really proud of Chris,” Prunty said. “Chris was injured last week and came back. Chris has been consistent all year and you saw the leadership at the end. To be able to, with a minute and 31 seconds left, lead us to a victory, I thought Chris did a great job of maintainin­g the offense.”

Zellous said he felt great throughout the game, adding that games like Saturday’s are the reason why he lives for football.

“I was 100% good and was ready to go,” Zellous said. “I felt great physically because of my mental preparatio­n. I knew what I was looking for, knew what I wanted to see, which helps my body move faster and move actively.”

North Carolina A&T put on a surprising offensive showcase. The Aggies came into the game averaging just 11.9 points per contest and had the worst passing offense in the CAA. True freshman quarterbac­k Kevin White, a Newport News native and Green Run High alum, had a career game through the air.

White was 10 for 15 for 211 yards and two touchdowns, which were his career-highs in completion­s, yards and scores.

Both of North Carolina A&T’s offensive scores came on explosive plays, the first a 46-yard pass from White to Taymon Cooke and the second a 75-yard pass from White to Kenji Christian.

Outside of those two plays, the Hampton defense performed well. North Carolina A&T came into the game with the No. 8 rush offense in the CAA, and the Pirates’ defense held it to 3.8 yards per rush.

“These guys are young, we’re still jelling, but we’re getting better,” Prunty said. “But you gotta give A&T credit, they were explosive.”

Michael Sauls, michael.sauls@ virginiame­dia.com, 757-803-5774

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