KINSTON, N.C. (HSOT) - Despite trailing 21-6 at halftime, Parrott Academy stormed back before falling to GRACE Christian 34-33 in the 2019 NCISAA DI 8-man football state championship Saturday night at Hodges Field.
The Patriots (8-3) had beaten the Eagles (8-3) 51-36 back on October 4 during the regular season.
GRACE Christian’s offense may have created the fireworks, but its defense ended the game with a bang.
The Eagles stopped Arendell Parrott’s 2-point conversion with 1:03 remaining to preserve a thrilling 34-33 win in the NCISAA Division I state championship game Saturday. GRACE Christian (8-3) never defeated APA in five tries prior to Saturday’s game and lost a 21-point second half advantage, but recovered to win its first football title in school history.
“It was really the first time this season we had relied on defense,” GRACE Christian coach Keith Boutwell said. “They stepped up and made a tremendous play. Give credit to Parrott — they have a class program, one we’re trying to emulate here. Our guys were able to make some great plays throughout, and we held on.”
APA (8-3) started the game with an 11-play, 80-yard drive, ending with a 9-yard Blake Smith touchdown, before recovering an onside kick. The Patriots turned the ball over on downs and the Eagles took advantage, as Isaiah Anderson scored four plays later on a 63-yard touchdown to take the lead. APA ran 44 plays offensively to GRACE Christian’s 14, but the Eagles went into halftime 21-6 after converting on a 41-yard touchdown connection from Jacob Hukins to Kasey Gower on fourth-and-11 and a big play from Anderson to end the second quarter. The senior weaved took a pass from Hukins and weaved through several APA defenders for a 74-yard score.
“I was trying to put points on the board at the end of the half, and when the ball came to me my thought was ‘I can’t be stopped here,’” Anderson said.
Hukins seemed to put the game away with a 3-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter, but the Patriots immediately fought back with a 16-play, 80-yard drive before forcing a safety. APA would keep the momentum, as Blake Smith scored consecutive touchdowns, the latter tying the game at 27 with 9:21 to play.
Two plays later, Hukins found Gower again to extend the lead to 34-27, and after forcing a turnover on downs, the Eagles looked to seal the game with a 39-yard field goal from Landon Lauffer. The kick was blocked with 3:09 to play, giving the Patriots one final chance.
Facing fourth-and-11, Wilkes Thomas found Morgan McPhaul, who scored from 33 yards out to bring APA within one with 1:03 remaining. The Patriots lined up for the extra point, but changed their mind and gave the ball to Smith, who was stopped just short of the end zone to take the lead.
“We had saved that play all year and felt like if we had the chance to run it, we would,” APA coach Matt Beaman said. “I was confident with the ball in Blake’s hands win or lose, and unfortunately it didn’t work out.”
The Patriots tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by Britton Kilby to set up the Eagles’ celebration.