A rural Ohio school and an urban Georgia college came to Soldier Field on Saturday to entertain impressionable high school students.

Clark Atlanta defeated Central State 20-13 in the 19th Chicago Football Classic, an annual matchup between two historically black colleges or universities (HBCUs) from around the country. The event is meant to encourage local students to attend college, particularly HBCUs.

Clark Atlanta (1-1, 1-1 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference) thwarted a last-ditch attempt from Central State (0-2, 0-1) when Jacob Mitchell intercepted Lavon Meeks’ Hail Mary pass at the 7-yard line as time expired.

The Panthers’ Jaha McCray was named the offensive MVP, rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown. Jaquatin Victrum had 15 tackles and was named defensive MVP.

The HBCU Battle of the Bands halftime show featured elaborate performances from Central State’s Invincible Marching Marauders and renditions of Bob Marley and Earth, Wind and Fire from the Tri-Cities Bulldogs, a high school team from Georgia. The South Shore Drill Team also performed.

“It was a great atmosphere,” Mitchell said. “It was bigger than what I thought it was going to be. The audience was loud, and the stadium was hyped.”

The CFC was formed as a not-for-profit organization in 1997 by three black Chicago businessmen, Larry Huggins, Everett Rand and Tim Rand. The games have raised more than $2 million in scholarships.

Huggins said that Central State, located in Wilberforce, Ohio, has 400 students from Chicago, up from 66 when the school made its first of four CFC appearances in 2008. He also said Clark Atlanta has around 80 students from Chicago.

“When these schools come here, Chicago becomes a market for them,” Huggins said. “And that’s why you can’t even begin to judge the impact of what this game means to the city.”

Tim Rand said that around 4,000 students attended the HBCU College Fair and Empowerment Summit before the game, which had representatives from 19 HBCUs on hand.

“It gives them an opportunity to continue their education, and maybe with a smaller group of students, and maybe with students who are familiar with the characteristics of the community where they come from,” Tim Rand said. “It’s a great opportunity for them.”

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