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Grambling State blocks kick, stops North Carolina Central, 10-9, in Celebration Bowl

Grambling State won the Celebration Bowl when it blocked an extra-point kick set back 15 yards by an excessive celebration with just over two minutes left, holding off North Carolina Central 10-9 Saturday. 

Joseph McWilliams surged in and swatted Brandon McLaren's 35-yard try with 2:14 remaining to preserve the Tigers' edge. 

Down 10-3, North Carolina Central had a chance to pull even after Quentin Atkinson shook loose and caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from scrambling Malcolm Bell. But Atkinson took off his helmet while reveling with the crowd, drawing a personal foul penalty. 

Martez Carter's 32-yard touchdown run to open the second half gave Grambling State (11-1) its first lead. The Tigers earned the bowl bid by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference Championship to complete a dramatic resurgence by the program. 

The Eagles (9-3) won the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference under third-year coach Jerry Mack. 

Trailing 3-0 at halftime, Grambling State opened the third quarter with a run-first plan. Following five power runs by 240-pound running back Jestin Kelly, the 175-pound Carter looked extra-quick on his sharp cuts through the line on his touchdown run for a 7-3 lead. 

The Tigers threw only one play-action pass for a short gain on the touchdown drive. 

Grambling State's defense later set up more points. Arkez Cooper sacked Bell, forcing a fumble recovered by Malcolm Williams at the Eagles 25. The turnover set up a 26-yard field goal by Jonathan Wallace. 

McLaren's 23-yard field goal provided the only points of the first half. The kick capped a 13-play drive and followed a dropped 6-yard pass in the end zone by Atkinson on third down. 

McLaren missed a 34-yarder late in the half. 

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