Homecoming 2013 will go down in the books as one of the most spirited. It will also be remembered as the homecoming when Braves football shattered the school record for points by defeating Tusculum 60-20.
The Braves, who have lost only one homecoming game, piled up 30 first downs and 584 yards of offense. After dropping 11 places in the national rankings following its first loss of the season the week before, the team put on a show for 5,286 appreciative fans.
A week full of activities preceded the football game. On Thursday, the annual Homecoming Parade fielded 99 entries of very spirited students, faculty and staff who chanted, cheered and played through town to campus. Proving the Pembroke is “Parade Town USA” an estimated 4,000 viewers turned out.
At the 45th annual Alumni Awards and Athletic Hall of Fame ceremony on Thursday evening, Pembroke dentist Dr. Jeff Collins ’74 was named Outstanding Alumnus, Dorothy Blue ’55 was named Distinguished Service Award winner and Fairmont High School art teacher Ashley Berdeau ’08 was named Young Alumna.
Two men and two women were inducted into the Hall of Fame. Soccer standouts Melanie Cobb ’08 and Sascha Goerres ’05, softball player Nicole McCorkle ’06 and basketball player Joe Robisch received the distinctive honor.
The theme for Homecoming 2013 was “The Spirit of Pembroke,” and spirits ran high before game time. Donnie Byers ’92 said the team’s national ranking has made him proud to be a Brave. “It’s surprising that we have become a national powerhouse so quickly,” he said. “It adds to the fun.”
W.J. Strickland, a Washington D.C. resident who was enjoying his 50th class reunion, was flat out astonished: “A few years ago none of this was here, incredible! This shows the power of people coming together – the impossible becomes possible.
“An event like this is a incubator for good things,” Strickland said. There’s power in this.”
Student Government Association President Emily Ashley threw in a digital age comment: “The Braves have set social media on fire again. Twitter and Facebook have blown up.”
Before the game, Campus Police Chief McDuffie Cummings ’92 estimated 4,100 tailgaters. “It’s going to be a great crowd, and everything is going well.”
The same could be said for the class of 1963. When Leroy Taylor got lost on campus Friday morning, groundskeeper Bryan Hunt picked him up and gave a golf cart tour.
“We’re having a great time,” Taylor said. “Everything has changed for the better. But what is so great is everybody is so friendly.”
It was Taylor’s first Pembroke homecoming since he graduated, but Tim Brayboy ’64 has attended every homecoming since 2007 when football returned to campus.
“I always look forward to this,” Brayboy said while standing a few feet from Metcon Construction’s annual homecoming pig pickin’. “You get to see a lot of people that you have not seen in quite some time.”
Newer alumni, like Lonnie Cox ’12 also look forward homecoming. “It’s an annual tradition for me,” he said. It’s nice to come back to see that everything keeps getting better every year.”
Tailgaters were out in force, and they come for many reasons. The Keck family has attended every game this season, arriving in a large recreational vehicle to support defensive end Mike Keck, a sophomore from Fayetteville, N.C.
Earl Thompson came up from Rowland towing a cooker and with his four daughters, Maquita ’11, Prescilla ’08 and twins, Janaiya and Jamaiya. I call these ‘Earl’s girls,’” he said. “I try to cook enough for anybody who comes by.”
Jimmy Smith ’75 and June Martin ’80 came early to network Friday night with the newest generation of Greeks. “We spearheaded Greeks on campus in our day,” said Martin, who was also a student government president.
Nostalgia dissolved quickly when BraveHawk led in the Spirit of the Carolinas Marching Band toward Grace P. Johnson Stadium. It was time for Braves football.
The 19th-ranked football team scored points on 10 of 11 drives in posting a record-breaking 60-20 victory to put an exclamation point on homecoming week in Pembroke.
The Braves (7-1) shattered a two-year-old school record for points scored with its offensive output. Tusculum (3-6), who led briefly 7-3, mustered just 84 rushing yards, including 29 in the first half alone, in dropping its fourth-straight contest.
BraveHawk during Homecoming Parade
Record-setting quarterback Luke Charles registered his 10th career 300-yard passing game, throwing for 384 yards and four touchdowns on 30-of-46 passing. Rontonio Stanley turned in his second 100-yard rushing game of the season with 114 yards on 15 carries to lead a season-best 189-yard rushing attack for the Braves, while B.J. Bunn hauled in eight catches for 105 yards and was one of four different players to tally scoring receptions. Michael Isbell caught one touchdown and ran for another as well to add his name to the highlight reel as well.
The defense, which has been stout all season, had seven tackles for losses and a pair of interceptions, including a 91-yard pick-six by Brandon Fulton in the fourth quarter. L.J. Stroman recorded a team-best nine tackles, seven solo, for the Black and Gold as well.
Tusculum's Bo Cordell, who came into the game as NCAA Division II's all-time passing leader, threw for 310 yards on 28-of-41 attempts. He got 172 receiving yards and 14 catches from Justin Houston.
“We needed to bounce back after a very difficult result last week,” said head coach Pete Shinnick, who has coached every game in modern Braves football history. “Except for two defensive lapses in the third quarter, we really got what we wanted tonight. I am very excited with the way we came out and played offensively. I am very excited for our guys and how we played today.”
Tusculum scored touchdowns on each of its first two possessions in the second half to pull to within a pair of touchdowns, but UNCP found the end zone on each of its next two possessions, and then added Fulton's score early in the fourth period, to put the game out of reach.
The win was as sweet as the weather, which topped out at 72 degrees under partly cloudy skies and a light breeze. As the sun set on another homecoming, several individuals left with special honors.
Dick and Lenore Taylor, namesakes of the newly resurfaced track, were introduced to the crowd before the game. At halftime, Jamal Quick, junior business major from Fayetteville, N.C., and Ronelle Hoff, a senior biology major from Charlotte, N.C., were named homecoming king and queen.
For Braves fans, homecoming couldn’t get any better than this.