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RMA hangs on to beat Kinston Parrott

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Arendell Parrott Academy’s Zach Sylvia, left, attempts to pull down Rocky Mount Academy’s Isaiah Thomas Friday at Rocky Mount Academy.

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By PATRICK MASON
Sports Writer

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Isaiah Thomas was glad it finally happened to someone else.

The Rocky Mount Academy quarterback knows all about teammate Daniel Cooper, a defensive lineman, because Cooper has a knack for finding his way into the backfield to blow up plays during practices.

On Friday against conference opponent Kinston Arendell Parrott Academy, Cooper smothered Patriots quarterback Connor Bright for a sack just as Bright received the snap. That loss of five yards proved to be just what RMA needed as it got a fourth-down stop two plays later to preserve a 39-36 win.

“He’s really good at getting off the ball quick,” Thomas said of Cooper. “He’ll do that in practice to me all the time. I’ll go to pass or something and he will be right in front of me ready to take me down.”

Cooper showed up at the right time as the Eagles (9-0, 5-0) needed to make a defensive stand while clinging to a slim lead. Parrott Academy looked prime to steal a win with its final drive.

RMA took a lead with 4:55 to play when Caleb Lambert raced 26 yards for a touchdown. But that excitement was short-lived.

The Patriots didn’t panic and kept the ball on the ground as they moved down the field, all while chipping away at the clock. With 2 minutes left and RMA out of timeouts, the Patriots had the ball on the RMA 15 facing a second down.

That’s when Cooper came screaming off the line to envelop Bright who did his best to hang on to the football.

“I had this mindset of we couldn’t let them score,” Cooper said. “I didn’t try to jump the snap count, I just tried to react as fast as possible. We had to show up and make something happen. I reacted right away and got him.”

That sack set up a third and 10 from the 20. Patriots running back Christian Jones, who finished with a team-high 152 rushing yards, ran for six yards on the next play to set up a fourth and 4 from the 14. The Patriots gave the ball to Shy Thompson, an elusive back who ripped off a 52-yard score earlier in the game, but he was brought down just before the sticks to end the threat.

It was an impressive second half from Parrott Academy, which rallied from a 25-16 halftime deficit to take a five-point lead with 10:43 to play in the game. The Patriots, however, had no answer for Thomas who turned in a monster game.

Thomas ran for a game-high 213 yards, and passed for 147. Thomas finished with five total touchdowns, including two rushing, two passing and a pick six. Thomas threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter to Jacob Braddy and Trey Smelcer.

The junior quarterback then added touchdown runs of 2 and 64 yards, with a 22-yard interception return for a touchdown in between. Thomas accounted for 360 of the Eagles’ 433 total yards. His jersey was covered in dirt and grass, and spoke in short bursts while still trying to catch his breath.

“We run all the time in practice,” Thomas said. “That stuff helps when you play both ways for four quarters, especially in a tight game like this. It was fun. It’s all fun.”

Parrott Academy entered the game as the top eight-man team in the state. The Eagles were No. 2, and should slide up after the win. The teams could meet down the line in the state title game, which is hosted by the Patriots.

“I don’t know what’s happening down the road,” Cooper said. “All I know is I have a lot of faith in this team, and the way we played at the end has us very confident.”

KAParrott 8 8 14 6 - 36

RMA 12 13 6 8 - 39

First quarter

RMA - Jacob Braddy 45 pass from Isaiah Thomas (run failed), 8:39

P - Shy Thompson 52 run (Trey Mclawhorn run), 3:21

RMA - Trey Smelcer 71 pass from Thomas (run failed), 2:59

Second quarter

RMA - Thomas 2 run (Smelcer kick), 11:32

RMA - Thomas 22 interception return (kick failed), 1:02

P - AJ Banker 90 kick return (Banker pass from Connor Bright), :46

Third quarter

P - Banker 34 pass from Bright (Mclawhorn pass from Bright), 9:02

RMA - Thomas 64 run (run failed), 7:05

P - Banker 13 pass from Bright (pass failed), 2:20

Fourth quarter

P - Bright 1 run (run failed), 10:43

RMA - Caleb Lambert 26 run (Thomas run), 4:55

STATS

RUSHING: RMA - Jacob Braddy 12-40, Isaiah Thomas 16-213, Caleb Lambert 6-33. Totals: 34-286. P - Shy Thompson 9-78, Christian Jones 21-152, Trey Mclawhorn 4-19, Zach Vendemia 2-16, Connor Bright 4-16. Totals: 40-281.

PASSING: RMA - Thomas 6-12-1, 147 yards. P - Bright 8-19-2, 116 yards.

RECEIVING: RMA - Braddy 4-72, Trey Smelcer 2-75. P - Mclawhorn 3-24, AJ Banker 3-58, Holden Killinger 1-5, Thompson 1-29.

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