APA ranked top 8-man team in N.C., prepares for Grace Christian Friday
Arendell Parrott Academy coach Matt Beaman leads a film session as the Patriots prepare for Grace Christian Friday. Photo by Junious Smith III / Neuse News
The best 8-man team in the state is in Kinston.
Arendell Parrott Academy got off to a rough start with a pair of losses in 11-man games, but getting back to its conventional ways have done wonders. The Patriots enjoyed a bye week after winning three straight contests heading into a matchup with a Grace Christian team sitting at 4-1 Friday.
“Those 11-man games really helped us figure out what we needed to do,” senior Jonah Beaman said. “They were developmental games and they’ve allowed us to make adjustments.”
One of the adjustments has been on the offensive end, where the Patriots have averaged 29 points per game over its first five. Granted, APA has posted an average of 39.3 in its 8-man games — a slight dropoff from the 40.9 last year — but it’s the team’s lowest total since 35.9 points per contest in 2016. APA coach Matt Beaman said the philosophy has changed with the personnel and the last time the team scored under 40 in 8-man football, the Patriots were state champions.
“In the past, we’ve been more of a spread-type offense, but this year we’ve gone into a ‘ground and pound,’” Beaman said. “Our line this year is bigger, faster and stronger, so we’ve changed the way we play because I think we’re playing to our strength. It allows our defense to get a little more rest — we’re using the clock more to control the ball offensively.”
Trey McLawhorn has been a focal point of the team’s offense and his last two games showcased his ability. The senior ran for 235 yards and three touchdowns against St. David’s in a 54-40 victory, then followed with 155 yards rushing, 129 yards receiving and four touchdowns against John Paul II in a 50-26 win.
“The line has really opened up a lot of holes and I’ve just been able to hit them,” McLawhorn said.
Senior fullback Blake Smith has been another strong piece, not only clearing holes but running the ball, totaling 118 yards in the team’s win over John Paul II.
“I think the pace of the game helped,” Smith said. “Not to see that we couldn’t handle 11-man football, but this fits our talents better as far as what we can do.”
On the offensive line, sophomore Michael Outlaw said the team has to maintain its strong pace.
“We just have to keep working hard throughout the season,” Outlaw said. “We have to stay disciplined and physical, and just hold our blocks.”
Junior lineman Parker Sheppard said the team has continued to roll despite losing starting quarterback Reynolds Barringer to a season-ending injury.
“Our quarterback situation changed going from Reynolds to Wilkes (Thomas), but the new quarterback has done well so far,” Sheppard said.
Thomas, a freshman, said it’s been an adjustment but the team has rallied behind him well.
“I’ve just been trying to keep my confidence up,” Thomas said. “My teammates have been helpful and Reynolds has been great showing me everything I need to know.”
Overall, Coach Beaman said the team has the ability to make this a special year with the opportunity to garner the school’s third football championship since 2015.
“We’re doing a lot of things good, but there’s still some little things we can do to improve,” Beaman said. “If we keep doing that, I think we’re going to have a chance at the end.”