The Harrells Christian Academy Crusaders season didn’t go the way they wanted under first year head coach Jason Arnette but it wasn’t all bad. There were plenty of positives the Crusaders have to build for the future of their program.
They ended the year at 5-7 overall in the NCISAA (North Carolina Independent Schools Athletic Association) Big East League and managed to make a run to the second round of the playoffs. With players in the top five of statistically categories of the conference on both offense and defense they competed better than there record indicated.
“Overall we did some good things and bad things. For me I like to win and it takes a lot of hard work and prep to win,” said Arnette. “We won five games and a playoff game, but we’ve still got a lot more hard work and determination to get us where I want.”
Harrells didn’t pass that much this season so their numbers through the air wasn’t anything amazing. They only averaged 21.4 receiving yard per game. However, they were outstanding in the ground game averaging almost 200 yards a game at 196 rushing yards per game.
They weren’t bad defensive either, though they allowed some teams to score lots of point they still managed to play well having players in the top five of the conference. Averaging 41.7 tackles per game, 23 total sack and snagged 12 interception to along with it.
“One of the positive things I can say about this season was the fact that we had such a good core group of guys,” Arnette remarked. “They worked hard in the weight room and they never quit no matter the situation. Because of it we were able to get that big win on the road in Charlotte in the playoffs. Best thing is we’ll have a good core group of guys coming back next year as returners.”
The Crusaders were up and down with their offense this season. When hot, they scored over 40 points multiple times but when they struggled offensive they were unable to score points, being shut out a few times this season.
“If I had to name a negative from this season it’s that we got shut out a few times this year and I didn’t like that,” said the coach. “We played some really good teams; some of them were among the best two or three private schools in North Carolina. We’ll have to work on closing the gap and that’s something I know we can do.”
One of the highlights for the season was the emergence of players in the new system that Arnette put into place, most notably standout Shaquor Newkirk. Newkirk was also one of the positives Arnette pointed out from this season as he earned a full ride scholarship to Coastal Carolina.
He also was a force on both sides of the ball, amassing the fourth-highest rushing total in the conference with 705 yards and leading the conference in sacks with 11 total.
“We were able to send (Shaquor) to a four-year college under full scholarship,” said Arnette. “We’ll be losing him next season which will be a big loss, but he’s not the only one that gave us good production this year.”
“We really had some guys that stepped up for us,” he continued. “Tyshon Newkirk helped us out playing at the quarterback position, along with other guys such as Mar’chris Jackson, Shameek Darby, Jack Laslo and Will Minchew to name a few. These guys really gave it their all and gave us a solid foundation to build off of going into the future.”
Also playing both sides of the ball, Tyshon Newkirk was the third best takeaway defensive back with four interceptions.
The inner workings for that future are already in place at Harrells and it starts with Arnette, especially since he’ll have full time to prep his team in the off-season under his vision for the program.
“One of the key problems we had this year was the fact that I got here late,” Arnette remarked. “Being new and trying to put in place a new offense in just the summer just wasn’t enough time to get properly prepared.”
“Now that I’m here we’ll get do things this off-season in the spring and summer, which has me excited for the future of the program,” the coach continued. “Our numbers are still a little low, but I’m confident that we can get those numbers up. If we do, I know we can accomplish a lot. One thing is for sure though, good things are ahead for Harrells football.”
Reach Michael Hardison at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.