On a night both offenses could do little wrong, Rocky Mount Academy needed an unlikely hero and its go-to star.
That star was running back Jacob Braddy, who put the Eagles up on the first play of overtime in the N.C. Independent Schools Athletic Association 8-man 2A football championship game.
The unlikely hero was defense.
Arendell Parrott, the host school for both the 2A and 1A finals, fumbled on its first play as it tried to answer RMA’s go-ahead score.
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And just like that it was over: Rocky Mount Academy had dethroned the two-time reigning champs, 66-60.
“I’ve never been in a game like that,” RMA coach Terrell Hudgins said. “They couldn’t stop us and we couldn’t stop them.”
With RMA quarterback Isaiah Thomas limited because of an injury, Braddy had to shoulder the load offensively.
He had a night for the ages.
Braddy ran 25 times for 322 yards and six touchdowns. He also caught six passes for 162 yards and one score.
“Our line blocked their tails off tonight,” said Braddy, a junior. “They allowed me to score every one of those touchdowns.”
Parrott (9-2) and RMA (12-0) have combined to win each of the last five 8-man championships, and Saturday night’s game lived up to the billing.
The first half ended with Parrott up 24-16. RMA hadn’t trailed all year by that many points, and the home side sat in stunned silence for most of the first two quarters, especially after Parrott led 16-0.
The atmosphere revved up when the scoring did too.
Parrott scored three plays into the second half and kicked off to RMA, which then scored on its next play from scrimmage.
The Eagles tied the score 32-all less than five minutes into the third quarter and took their first lead, 40-32, with 5:36 left in the third on the third of three consecutive Braddy scores. In all, there were four ties and seven lead changes in the game.
Parrott tied it 40-all with 9 seconds left in the third as Connor Bright found A.J. Banker on a deep pass. The two connected six times for 162 yards and three touchdowns. The two sides each scored twice in the fourth quarter, alternating when they did and did not convert the two-point conversions.
After Bright scored on a 3-yard run with 41 seconds left, RMA stopped the 2-point conversion to keep the game at 60-all and help send it to overtime.
“We gave it everything we had. I think both teams, defensively, struggled all night and it would come down to who had the ball last,” Parrott coach Matt Beaman said. “I just hate that we had to lose it there at the end.”
The RMA sideline was a little worried when, after Braddy’s overtime touchdown, the 2-point conversion failed.
Both teams were 6-of-8 on two-point conversions in regulation.
“I honestly said, ‘We need them to fumble right here,’ and they fumbled and we got on it,” Hudgins said. “Both teams kind of deserved to win tonight.”