Pope John Paul II is preparing for its first ever football season.
The Saints will play eight-man football, much like fellow private school Arendell Parrott Academy in Kinston, and will be coached by the schools athletic director Shaun Murphy.
"Expect a lot of passing and high scoring games," Murphy said. "Eight-man football means we have to have more athletes on the field. Those 250-300 pound linemen can't run and keep up all game, so the players are smaller and faster. That leads to more big time plays and more excitement on the field."
It will also be the first game in the schools new athletic facility, which when complete on Jan. 1, 2020, will wrap up nearly a year of construction that cost the school $12.5 million.
Murphy is excited not only for the players, but for supporters of the team to experience the atmosphere as the Saints make their way through their first season.
"I think they will feel a sense of pride and school spirit," Murphy said. "It's not like anything else. This is a college town with ECU. Whenever ECU is plays, whether your a fan or a student, you have pride in what the team is doing, and I expect it to be similar for our fans."
JP2 holds a 25-man roster, which will be led by freshman William Reid. The team will have just two seniors on its roster, running back/defensive back Scott Corely and running back/linebacker Shiyah Waller. Due to the format of eight-man football, and the size of the roster, every player will be proficient on offense and defense.
The first ever matchup on JP2's new turf field will pit the Saints against another local religious based school, Christ Covenant, on Aug. 29 at 7 p.m, one week after local public schools kick off their season.
"Since it's the first year I wanted to give the guys extra time to prepare," Murphy said. "Next year I expect we will start on the regular schedule and possibly add more games."
JP2 will play just eight regular seasons games in 2019, and will be a part of the NCISSA Big 8 Conference. The conference also includes GRACE Christian, St. David's, Parrott Academy, Cary Christian, Faith Christian, Fayettevile Christian, and Rocky Mount Academy.
JP2 will also play two traditional 11-man football games this season, helping show that even with a smaller roster, the team can be competitive no matter the format.
Contact Jake Keator at firstname.lastname@example.org, 252-329-9594 and follow @JakeKeatorDR on Twitter.