The 2019 high school football season was one of progress for the Perquimans County High School varsity football team.
The Pirates earned their first state playoff appearance since the 2016 campaign and will try to duplicate that success this spring.
Perquimans returns nine starters on offense and four on defense from its 5-7 season in 2019.
Starting players from last season expected to take the field this season are Amarion Hunter (junior, quarterback), EJ Gatling (junior, running back), Antwan Harris (senior, running back), Jackson Russell (junior, wide receiver), Nasir Parker (junior, offensive lineman), Ephraim Askew (sophomore, offensive lineman), Jaydon Long (senior, offensive lineman), Travon Hunter (junior, offensive lineman), Stenson Proctor (sophomore, defensive lineman), Joseph Askew (senior, linebacker), Desmond Overman (junior, linebacker) and Jimmy Sawyer (sophomore, linebacker).
Also expected to start for Perquimans are Kameron Hall (junior, wide receiver), Trent Byrum (junior, offensive lineman), Chase White (junior, defensive lineman) Derrick Thatch (senior, defensive lineman), Isaiah Davis (junior, linebacker), Bryson Sawyer (freshman, defensive back), Mason Byrum (junior, defensive back), Machani Privott (sophomore, defensive back) and Tyrese Brothers (junior, defensive back).
Kirk Brown (sophomore, running back), Savoris Lewis (freshman, linebacker) and Saquaon Kearse (junior, linebacker) are expected to contribute for the Pirates this season.
Amarion Hunter led Perquimans in passing yards with 1,545 yards, 20 touchdowns and six interceptions last season.
As a runner, Amarion Hunter accounted for 1,386 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Harris was the second leading rusher on the team last season with 929 yards and eight touchdowns, while Gatling had 866 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.
The Perquimans offense rushed for 3,646 yards and 31 touchdowns in 2019.
Gatling is the top receiver returning from last season as he accumulated 479 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore.
Perquimans head coach Randy Awrey, who is in his third season leading the program, noted the program is excited to finally get the football season started.
“Our guys have been working very hard throughout the fall and winter just to stay in good shape,” Awrey said. “On Monday, February 8 we were able to start practice with more football related drills and teaching of the offense, defense and special teams.”
“We are optimistic about the fact that we have a lot more upperclassmen on the team than we have had in the last few years. Even though we only have four seniors we have 17 juniors, that gives us 21 players who have been a part of the football program for at least two years. We have a good group of young freshman and sophomores who will be going to be competing for starting positions.”
“Even though the weather is not cooperating in February our student athletes have worked in the mud, wind, rain and cold without complaining getting ready for the football season.”
“We really feel that we are developing our team, camaraderie along with their maturity, hard work and effort that these guys are putting in, we are excited to see where it can take us. We are really blessed to get the opportunity to play football again.”
Perquimans begins its season Friday in Williamston against Riverside High School in a non-conference game.
Next season, both teams are expected to be members of a new Class 1A conference.
The North Carolina High School Athletic Association is expected to complete the realignment process for the next four-season cycle this spring.
The Pirates will complete their fourth and final season as a member of the current Albemarle Athletic Conference with league games against Gates County, Manteo, Camden County and John A. Holmes.
Washington County, a member of the AAC, will not sponsor a football team this spring.
The Pirates were initially scheduled to host Class 2A program Pasquotank County on March 5 in a non-league game, but Pasquotank decided not to field a team this spring.
Perquimans concludes non-conference play with a road game at Class 2A program First Flight on March 12.
The NCHSAA delayed the start of the football season from mid-August 2020 to Feb. 26 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The season was shortened from 11 regular season games to up to seven contests.
Due to current restrictions related to the pandemic, spectators are limited at high school sporting events in the state.
Perquimans County will stream all home football games this spring on the NFHS Network at www.NFHSnetwork.com.
A paid subscription is required to watch the games.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCHSAA shortened the field for its state playoffs.
Conferences with one to six active teams receive one automatic berth into the playoffs.
Conferences with seven to eight active teams receive two automatic berths into the playoffs, while leagues with nine or more active teams receive three automatic berths into the playoffs.
At-large or “wild-card” berths into the playoffs are decided by the best conference winning percentage.
The brackets for each subdivision (i.e. AA or A) will have 16 teams this season instead of 32 teams in previous seasons.
The brackets are then split by East and West regions.
The first round of the playoffs are set for April 16, the second round April 23 and the regional championship round on April 30.
State championship games will be held May 8.