St. David’s put on a championship atmosphere for its football state title game against Arendell Parrott, but the Patriots from Kinston defended their N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 8-man 2A crown.
The festive evening began with tailgating on the lawn at the school’s campus above cozy John A Murphy Field that was standing-room only. The play on the field kept everyone in place until Parrott ran out the clock Friday night for a 23-16 win.
“We had a lot of adversity this season losing four games in a row,” said Parrott wide receiver and return man A.J. Banker. “Coach (Matt Beaman) got us together and said we’re still state champions until someone takes it away from us. We came together and everyone bought in.”
Parrott finished with a 7-4 record and St. David’s a 9-3 mark.
Banker helped the Patriots get off to a fast start with a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior returned a punt 37 yards to the St. David’s 18-yard line. Three plays later Cole Daniels scored around the left end on a 10-yard run.
After forcing another Warriors punt, Parrott drove six plays and 59 yards. Daniels scored again, this time on a 34-yard catch from Connor Bright.
St. David’s came alive late in the first quarter when the Warriors turned to sophomore running back Houston Walker for two scoring drives.
The touchdowns were followed by a pair of two-point conversions to lift the Warriors to a 16-14 lead with 8:31 left in the second quarter. The first scores were Baylor Wordsworth’s 27-yard reception from Garrett Lewis. Walker finished the second TD drive with a 1-yard run.
Back-to-back 5-yard penalties in the fourth quarter thwarted a St. David’s drive with the Warriors trailing by what turned out to be the final score. St. David’s started from its 20-yard line and drove to a first-and-10 at its 48. The Warriors weren’t able to convert a first-and-20 series from the 34. After the Warriors punted, Parrott was able to control field position and the clock the rest of the way.
THREE TO KNOW
Houston Walker, St. David’s: The 5-foot-10, 160-pounder carried 23 times for 135 yards and one touchdown. He is the younger brother of senior Trey Walker, the starting running back until a season-ending knee injury.
Blake Sanders, St. David’s: The 6-foot-4 defensive linemen gained penetration to limit the Patriots to a 30-yard field goal in the second half.
A.J. Banker, Parrott: In addition to his big punt return, he finished the night with eight catches for 90 yards.
THEY SAID IT
“I’m so proud of these boys. They worked every single day at practice. They played with character and heart and never quit. That’s a great football team over there, and we appreciate playing them.” – St. David’s coach Scott Shaw.