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There’s no homecoming like GHOE

The fun at N.C. A&T included the Aggies winning big against FAMU

What a month October has been for the faithful at North Carolina A&T State University.

President Barack Obama was in Greensboro on Oct. 11 for a town hall meeting with The Undefeated. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton dropped by Thursday while on the campaign trail.

So it was no small task Saturday for Aggies coach Rod Broadway and the N.C. A&T football team (7-1, 5-0 Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) as they faced Florida A&M (3-6, 3-3) at Aggie Stadium.

Before a sellout homecoming crowd, the Aggies did not disappoint in a 42-17 stomping of the Rattlers in a game that was part track meet, part aerial show, part ground-and-pound and part acrobatics.

But the game was one part of what is called the Greatest Homecoming on Earth.

More than a football game

Saturday’s football game was neither the beginning nor the end to what is called the Greatest Homecoming on Earth. A reference at urbandictionary.com describes GHOE as:

#GHOE

A pseudonym for the Greatest Homecoming On Earth. It is unique to North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. The University’s social aspect is reflected in #GHOE, food, shows, parties, etc.

I’m partying with Nxlevel at #GHOE

#ncat #aggies #ghoe #homecoming #hbcu

GHOE 2016 provided all that and then some.

On Saturday, fans began arriving at the stadium hours before kickoff. Many came to the stadium shortly after the homecoming parade. The parade route wound through streets near campus, which sits just off downtown Greensboro, and the parade featured dozens of floats, dignitaries and high school bands.

A main attraction, of course, was the Aggies Blue and Gold marching band, which provided a preview of the R&B and hip-hop numbers that would be on display during the halftime show.

The band’s halftime performance was not so much a “battle of the bands,” because costs prevented FAMU’s world-famous Marching 100 from attending. With escalating costs and tight budgets, HBCU bands now travel mainly to classic games and close geographic rivals.

The Aggies Blue and Gold did travel to Howard’s homecoming last weekend.

FAMU’s absence gave the A&T band a little more time for its formations, drumlines and dance routines, entertaining the 22,000-plus spectators, many of whom streamed through the stadium gates just before halftime for the sole purpose of catching the halftime show.

After the halftime show, a few hundred fans retreated to the main tailgate area next to the stadium, a temporary tent city, where the smell of smoked and grilled meat was in the air all day.

Many dressed in Greek fraternity and sorority attire mixed and mingled with the Aggie blue and gold.

Later on Saturday night, Young Dolph, Young Thug and Party Next Door kicked off the Aggie Homecoming concert.

Aggies football showed why they are No.1

A big part of the weekend theatrics was provided by A&T All-American senior tailback Tarik Cohen, who finished with 145 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. By game’s end, Cohen, the MEAC career rushing leader (5,199), was second all-time on the HBCU career rushing charts behind Winston-Salem State’s Richard Huntley (6,286).

Cohen also had 65 receiving yards, and it was difficult to tell which of his touchdowns was more dramatic. He had a 19-yard third-quarter score in which he went airborne to fly past the near-side pylon to help A&T to a 14-10 lead.

Before you could say greatest A&T touchdown ever, he closed out his day with an 83-yard score in which he broke into a long sprint along the far sideline before cutting all the way across the field diagonally to score closer to the near-side Aggies faithful for a 35-10 lead.

But A&T is no one-trick pony, which is to say that the Aggies, marching toward a third-straight MEAC championship, have loads of other talent.

Senior Denzel Keyes, the Aggies’ jump-ball specialist, caught five passes for 38 yards.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Lamar Raynard completed 20 of 27 passes for 230 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions.

All-MEAC senior defensive lineman Marquis Ragland had three tackles and one tackle for a loss.

“We knew we had to put on a show,” Ragland said, “for these fans, for these ex-players [1986 Aggie MEAC champions] who put everything on the line. We knew we had to put on a show for them.”

“We were just trying to dominate every single play and not allow anybody to score,” Ragland said.

It was the sixth-straight homecoming victory for the Aggies, who had lost seven homecoming games in a row before the 2011 arrival of Broadway.

“Winning homecoming is big — at all HBCUs,” Broadway said Saturday. “So, I’m grateful to be a part of this thing and to be 6-0 at homecoming. I thought our guys played outstanding, considering the distractions with everything that homecoming is.”

A&T is chasing its third straight black college national championship and a second-straight berth in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. Another black national championship would be a sixth for Broadway.

Back to the party

Ground zero for GHOE for the 30-and-over set is the Greensboro Sheraton at Four Seasons, which is connected to the Koury Convention Center.

The hotel features a long, winding lobby and several bars and restaurants, making it the perfect setting for the late-night casual meetings and conversations that go on well into the early morning.

It was there where at least two alums took selfies with the Rev. Jesse Jackson, one of N.C. A&T’s most famous alumni.

“I was very surprised to see,” Sharon Mayfield, a human resource manager from Statesville, said. “It’s the first time I’ve met him.”

C.T. Wilson, who holds a doctorate in leadership from A&T, has seen Jackson at previous homecomings, but she didn’t hesitate at the chance for the photo when she spotted Jackson at the hotel’s front desk.

Wilson said she was surprised that Jackson, a member of Omega Psi Phi, flashed his fraternity’s “hooks” sign at her, elbows up, hands facing outward.

“He’s here every year,” said Wilson, of Baltimore. “It reminds us of who we are and where we came from.”

Jackson was making his way through the lobby near the end of the Alumni Homecoming Concert, this year, The Whispers’ “It Just Gets Better With Time” concert, with special guest Stephanie Mills.

During the concert, the audience sang along with The Whispers’ standards, such as Rock Steady, And the Beat Goes On, and, yes, It Just Gets Better With Time.

Mills’ set included I Feel Good All Over.

Friday’s events also included the Divine Nine Step Show, which the brothers of Phi Beta Sigma won for the 12th time, according to some observers. Delta Sigma Theta was the winner among the sororities.

GHOE officially started Oct. 23 with the coronation of Jeffron Smalls and Jasmine Linee Boles as Mr. and Miss A&T State University.

Boles, born in Decatur, Georgia, and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, is a senior majoring in industrial and systems engineering.

She is a member of Golden Key National Honor Society, Alpha Kappa Mu Honor Society, the Institute of Industrial Engineers and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Smalls, a senior from Georgetown, South Carolina, is majoring in industrial and systems engineering. He is a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, the Institute of Industrial & Systems Engineers, the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.

David R. Squires is a writer, editor and digital journalist who has worked for the New York Times, Detroit Free Press, Cleveland Plain Dealer and St. Petersburg Times. He's also a former editor-in-chief of BlackVoices.com and BVQ magazine, a former Black Enterprise writer and editor and NUTribemagazine.com managing editor.