Mister and Miss Howard University, Mahlon West and Armani Washington, looking elegant with Mister Hampton University, Sean Powell (left) with Miss Hampton University Hannah Selders, Miss Howard. (Photo courtesy of HU Royal Court)

By Re’Jon Jones,
Special to the AFRO

In a highly anticipated matchup, the Hampton University Pirates emerged victorious against the Howard University Bisons on a sunny September afternoon. Both teams, playing at the Audi Field in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 16 showcased an  impressive display of talent, fostering an atmosphere of rich culture, legacy  and a friendly rivalry.  

The game, coined the annual Truth and Service Classic, drew an enthusiastic crowd of alumni, students, families and football fans alike. Both spirits and tensions were high as the two teams took the  field, aiming to put on a show for their loyal supporters. 

From the first whistle, Howard showed their dominance, with quarterback Quinton Williams orchestrating a potent offense. Williams connected with his  teammates for three touchdowns in the first half, quickly putting the Bison ahead. The chemistry between Williams and his receiving corps, including  senior Kasey Hawthorne, was on full display as they moved up the scoreboard with ease.  

At halftime, over 16,000 fans paraded into the stands anticipating the legendary halftime show which showcased a battle between both HU bands. This  performance engaged the crowd with renditions of Black American classics,  talented dancers and showstopping drum majors. The halftime show was sealed with the roaring cheers that erupted throughout the stadium.  

Amidst all the fun and culture, one age old question remains, “Who is the real HU?” 

“Everyone knows Howard is the Real HU, the founding dates speak for  themselves,” said Deonte Jones, a sophomore at Howard University from Oakland, CA. “But aside from the rivalry, deep down inside both schools have  a love for each other. It’s like a family, we can mess with them but others can’t. I’m here for all HBCUs, for the culture.” 

Howard University’s Jarrett Hunter and Richie Ilarraza celebrating the first touchdown of the game. (Photo courtesy of HU Bison Football)

For much of the game, Howard held the lead. With only 6 minutes and 11 seconds left in the third quarter, Howard scored a field goal putting them ahead 31-14. A few plays later, Hawthorne was lost for the day due to a head injury. 

The momentum shifted almost instantly, allowing Hampton the opportunity to come back.  

The fourth quarter began with Howard holding a 10-point lead. With 8 minutes and 2 seconds left,  Hampton’s Paul Woods completes a 12-yard touchdown pass from Christopher Zellous, cutting Howard’s lead to 34-28. After an unfortunate series of plays by Howard, Zellous completes a one-yard touchdown run with 3 minutes and 2 seconds left, advancing Hampton to a one-point lead causing a shift of energy in the stadium. Bison fans were now on the edges of their seats. 

Howard’s last possession of the game resulted in an interception with 44  seconds to go, confirming Hampton’s victory. 

In the final seconds of the fourth quarter, Hampton celebrated their win. Hampton’s players taunted Howard’s fan section, proudly repping their  school. Players yelled out to the crowd, “We’re the Real HU,” while imitating  Howard’s famous call, “H-U,” only to find that no one would respond “You  know!” 

In the end, both teams celebrated each other cultivating the HBCU love and  support everyone in attendance was there for.  

“Hampton may have won but Howard’s legacy speaks for itself,” said Kyla  Jefferson, a Howard University junior from Atlanta. “It’s more than just a  game. It’s Black excellence.”