The first fall Homecoming in more than 50 years at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke was capped off with an impressive 31-21 football win on Lumbee Guaranty Bank Field.
Brandon McLaurin, 25, runs for daylight in UNCP’s Homecoming win.
A record crowd of 4,384 cheered the Braves on and an estimated 2,000 tailgated before the game.
The new-era Braves football team earned its third victory of the inaugural season on October 6 over Webber International. UNCP amassed nearly 400 yards of total offense and took advantage of five turnovers.
Running back Brandon McLaurin recorded his second consecutive 100-yard game, and the Braves got 144 passing yards from quarterback Cory Smith.
Defensive stars included tackle James Littlejohn with 10 solo tackles and a key sack and linebacker John Stokes with nine solo tackles.
“We could have gotten frustrated two weeks ago when we were putting in all the hard work and not seeing the results, but I am very pleased with the way the players have fought back these last two weeks to put us where we are,” head coach Pete Shinnick said.
Homecoming 2007 King DaTwon Canty of Ashboro, N.C., and Queen Candy Panzo Pambu of the Congo
Homecoming week was loaded with exciting events including a sold-out Givens Performing Arts Center for the musical production of “Hairspray.” Popular hip-hop artist T-Pain packed the Main Gym of the Jones Center on Saturday night with more than 3,000 fans.
A parade, pep rally, semi-formal dance and more were part of the weeklong festivities.
Tailgating also proved to be a very popular sport with loyal Braves fans. UNCP Police Chief McDuffie Cummings said nearly 500 available spaces were filled as tailgaters jammed UNCP parking lots in the hours before kick-off.
“I am glad that everything went very smoothly, and everyone had fun at the first football Homecoming,” Chief Cummings said. “We’re still working to communicate our new tailgating policy. NCAA rules apply to tailgating too.”
The new Spirit Award for tailgating went to Pi Kappa Alpha, which arrived with a large motor home and tables loaded with food. More than 50 fraternity members, their wives and friends attended the 1970s and early 80s reunion.
UNCP tailgating received high marks from veteran tailgaters Mike Caudill ‘75 and Jay ’78 and Noreen ’80 Tilley. “It’s outstanding!” Jay Tilley said.
Homecoming reunion of 1947-51 football teams - L-R: Vardell Swett, James C. Dial, Jesse E. Oxendine, Louis Oxendine, Tom Oxendine, Zeb "Bud" Lowry, Jr., Monroe Lowry, Fred Locklear, James A. Jones, John W. "Ned" Sampson, Delton Ray Locklear.
There was more reason to celebrate as Pi Kappa Alpha’s UNCP Alumni Chapter received its national charter this fall, said Bill Mason Jr. ’80. He said the group remains organized at annual beach weekends.
Terry Register ’79, who brought the RV, said “this is really going to help the University. You miss out on a lot of fun without football.”
Tommy Rachels ’78 said he “never thought Pembroke would do this.”
“We’ve started a new tradition today,” said Jimbo Blasingame ’80, a retired Lt. Colonel who traveled from Yorktown, Va., to the game.
The new Homecoming Spirit Award for tailgating went to the Pi Kappa Alpha reunion.
David Ellen ’80, son of the late UNCP baseball coach Harold Ellen, came from Jacksonville, Fla. “We went to the Jacksonville game, and it was really impressive to see how many UNCP fans made the trip.”
John Joseph ’79 thanked fraternity brother Dr. Glen Burnette Jr. ’80 for organizing the event.
“This is a really great group of friends who enjoy getting together,” Dr. Burnette said. “They came from all over the country to renew friendships at the new Homecoming.”
Tailgaters included Greeks and sports teams, recent and older grads, parents of players and many, many friends of the University.
On the football field, the Braves did not waste much time getting the fans into the game, forcing a fumble on the opening kickoff and scoring four plays later.
However, Webber International scored the next 14 points. The Braves responded when Keith Farrington finished a four-play, 63-yard drive with a 28-yard touchdown reception. The Braves took the lead seven seconds later when Troy Russell intercepted a pass on the opening play of the next possession and raced 29 yards for the go-ahead score.
“I really challenged them at halftime to hold the lead,” said coach Shinnick. “I am very happy for our coaches and our players to be able to put (wins) together back-to-back.”
Webber International tied the game with 6:19 to go in the 3rd quarter, but Cory Smith plunged over from the one to put the Braves ahead for good. An insurance field goal by Andrew Williams wrapped up scoring.