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Clockwise, from bottom left: running back Arriq Redd, running back Noah Hambrick, head coach Justin Payne, quarterback Kevin Smith III, running back Da'Vaugh Curbeam. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season.
Clockwise, from bottom left: running back Arriq Redd, running back Noah Hambrick, head coach Justin Payne, quarterback Kevin Smith III, running back Da'Vaugh Curbeam. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. (Ulysses Muñoz)

Statistics sometimes paint a misleading picture in football, but numbers truly tell the story of why No. 8 Parkville is 11-0 and ready to take on No. 12 Old Mill in a Class 4A state quarterfinal Friday night at Perry Hall.

The Knights run Navy’s version of the triple-option offense and have ground up opponents with it this season. Their top four runners each have posted more than 600 rushing yards — combining for a total of 2,582 yards and 31 touchdowns — which is a big reason Parkville has outscored its opponents 414-90.

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It also helps explain why the Knights have improved from 3-7 last year to 11-0. Parkville also became the first team in program history to go undefeated in the regular season. The Knights also have won two playoff games, beating Wheaton, 49-0, in the first round before rolling over Einstein, 48-9, last week.

Parkville had never won a playoff game before.

Running back Da'Vaughn Curbeam, hanging with his offensive coordinator, Rick Zentz. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019
Running back Da'Vaughn Curbeam, hanging with his offensive coordinator, Rick Zentz. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019 (Ulysses Muñoz)

“I feel that these kids are special,” Parkville coach Justin Payne said. “We haven’t changed our course about what we’re doing. They work hard. They believe in what we’re doing. They believe in Parkville football.”

The rushing attack has powered the Knights all season. Quarterback Kevin Smith III leads the way with 694 yards and 10 touchdowns on 111 carries. He’s also completed 29 of 59 passes for 499 yards and nine touchdowns.

Then comes Arriq Redd (665 yards on 100 carries, seven touchdowns), Noah Hambrick (622 yards on 55 carries, nine touchdowns) and Da’Vaughn Curbeam (601 yards on 45 carries, five touchdowns). Also in the mix is Raymond Wood with 407 yards on 71 carries and seven touchdowns.

Payne said that a large group has been together through long stretches of his five-year run at the school — Smith, Hambrick, Curbeam and Wood all are seniors, with Redd a junior. The group knows and understands the triple-option and its intricacies, while offensive coordinator Rick Zentz has guided them well.

“Our group we have now, we were able to buy into the offense,” Hambrick said. “Everybody has a job to do. Everybody’s job is important. One small mistake can mess up the whole [thing], and we don’t want that.”

Hambrick has been versatile, adding 708 yards on kickoff and punt returns with four more touchdowns. He also is a key part of the defense, having recently moved to outside linebacker with Parkville using a 4-3 with multiple fronts. Middle linebacker Yasir Talib-Harrison is the team’s top tackler while defensive end Emmanuel Anokwute and cornerback Curbeam also help out.

The Knights were 0-10 before Payne took over in 2015, and he had two winning seasons in his first four. Even though they stumbled to a 3-7 record last year, the coach saw good things on the horizon.

“They like each other, and they have fun with each other,” Payne said. “They’re very disciplined. I knew before the season that this year was going to be different — because of the work ethic. I could see the kids were buying in to what we were trying to do.”

Running back Noah Hambrick also plays defense, here he runs a drill while head coach Justin Payne watches in the back Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019
Running back Noah Hambrick also plays defense, here he runs a drill while head coach Justin Payne watches in the back Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019 (Ulysses Muñoz)

Payne has been an assistant coach at several other local schools as well as a head coach at Woodlawn. One of his stops came at Milford Mill, where he served as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach under Reggie White.

White said that Payne is the kind of coach that players gravitate towards, and that’s why he’s not surprised by Parkville’s success.

“He’s an old-school coach with old-school ways but not too stubborn where he won’t adjust,” White said. “I knew he would have the program [running] on all cylinders.”

They’ll need to be on their game against Old Mill (9-2). The Patriots already have beaten Severna Park and Meade in the first two rounds of the playoffs and have some size; so the Knights are hoping their speed can help neutralize Old Mill’s bulk.

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Head coach Justin Payne runs practice Thursday night. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019
Head coach Justin Payne runs practice Thursday night. Parkville High School's undefeated football team runs a Navy triple-option offense coached by Justin Payne, who's been with the school for 5 years. Three running backs and and the team's quarterback all have 600+ yards this season. 11-21-2019 (Ulysses Muñoz)

Simply put, Parkville can’t wait for the test.

“You wouldn’t believe how excited we are,” Hambrick said. “This is Parkville’s first team to make it this far. It’s a lot of fun.”

Class 4A quarterfinal

NO. 12 OLD MILL vs. NO. 8 PARKVILLE

at Perry Hall High School

Friday, 7 p.m.

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