On a play intended as a zone read, Jimmy Strom turned to his right and found no one to hand off to.
Improvising, the Pinecrest quarterback bounced off a lineman, put his head down and lurched forward.
When he picked himself up off the ground, he was standing in the end zone. The 3-yard run gave the Paladins a 30-25 lead over Strong Rock Christian with 39.2 seconds left, and Pinecrest held on for its first win in nearly two months, drawing the curtains on a mostly frustrating year.
“I’m happy for the boys,” said Paladins head coach Charles Wiggins. “Unfortunately, the last couple years, we haven’t been up to championship form. That’s all on me. But we hope this is the first step back in the right direction.”
Strom's score was the latest swing in a seesaw Region 5 crossover battle between second-year GHSA teams carrying six-game losing streaks in tow.
The lead changed hands three times in the fourth quarter, and both squads contributed big plays and mistakes.
The Patriots outgained Pinecrest (3-7, 0-6 Region 5N-A) behind quarterback Zach Moss’ 114 yards rushing, but the Paladins took advantage of a mishandled punt snap and a Strong Rock fumble near its red zone.
Strom rushed for 85 yards and two scores and threw for another. Two of his six completions came on the game’s deciding drive.
Strong Rock kicker Travis Dauro drilled a 25-yard field goal to give his team a 25-23 advantage with 2:09 left. Pinecrest had taken its first lead since the second quarter on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Strom to Zach Guard (4 catches, 50 yards receiving) early in the fourth.
John Paul Metz slashed through the line and stripped running back Jordan Spruill with 1:38 left in the third quarter, and Pinecrest recovered at the Patriots’ 24 to set up Guard’s touchdown.
Christopher Birozes’ 20-yard field goal brought Pinecrest within 22-17 after the Patriots began the second half with a 14-play, 85-yard drive that ate nearly eight minutes off the clock. Moss punched it in himself to expand the Paladins’ 15-14 halftime deficit.
The teams traded touchdowns in each of the first two quarters, with Strong Rock fullback Kyle Jennings plowing in off left tackle from three yards out with 10 seconds left in the second quarter. Patriots coach Mark Miller went for two, and Jennings converted on the same exact play.
Lambert 31, Cass 0
CARTERSVILLE — Lambert salvaged as much as it could in its regular season finale.
On the heels of a 16-0 loss at the hands of Rome, the Longhorns defeated Cass 31-0 at the Colonels’ field.
Coupled with Rome’s 21-14 loss to defending state champion Chattahoochee, the Longhorns leapfrogged the Wolves for the region’s No. 3 seed.
Lambert (8-2, 8-2 Region 7-AAAA) held Cass to just two first downs and 52 yards of total offense.
“I think it was important for us to come out and get our eighth win to end on a high note,” said Lambert head coach Sid Maxwell. “Now we just have to keep going. It is a whole new season starting right now.”
Lambert will travel to face the No. 2 seed from Region 8-AAAA — Flowery Branch, Clarke Central, or Heritage-Conyers.
Those three teams finished in a three-way tie and are set to conduct a drawing for seeding on Saturday.
Johns Creek 44, Forsyth Central 14
JOHNS CREEK — It was just one of those nights for Forsyth Central, which had no answers for a powerful Johns Creek squad in a 44-14 season-ending defeat.
“Dang good football team right there, [they’re] 9-1 for a reason,” said Central head coach Chris Bennett.
“And we made some critical mistakes, turned the ball over a lot, but hats off, they’re a good football team.”
Central (2-8, 2-8 Region 7-AAAA) did have its own share of strong performances.
Michael Branigan rushed for 100 yards on 13 carries with one touchdown. Quarterback Spencer Transue was 10 of 21 passing for 81 yards.
“I love my kids,” Bennett said. “As far as the season, I’m going to let this soak in. Obviously, it wasn’t as successful as we wanted it to be. I think we made some strides.”
Alpharetta 42, North Forsyth 7
Certainly, Blair Armstrong hoped for more than one victory in his first season as North Forsyth’s head coach.
The Raiders, who reached the Class AAAAA state playoffs last season, knew 2011 would be a rebuilding year. With just 13 seniors on the roster, there were lessons to be learned and experiences to be gained.
North wrapped up its season Friday night, losing 42-7 at Raider Valley to Region 6-AAAAA champion Alpharetta.
And while the main focus on this night was Alpharetta quarterback Joshua Dobbs’ six touchdown passes, Armstrong spent the first moments of his offseason talking about the future.
“I think if we’ll keep learning, good things will happen,” Armstrong said. “We got better every week and definitely are seeing improvement.”
North (1-9, 1-5) ended the season on a five-game losing streak after upending Roswell in the region opener Sept. 23.
“We’ve got to fix some things, but I’m excited about our future,” Armstrong said. “We’ve got great kids, great coaches, great fan support and a great community.”
Northwest Whitfield 28, South Forsyth 7
TUNNEL HILL — South Forsyth could not recover after giving up four first-half touchdowns, falling to Northwest Whitfield 28-7 at Bruin Stadium in the season finale for both teams.
Northwest used big plays in the first half to score all of its points. South gained 149 yards rushing and 43 yards through the air for the game.
War Eagles head coach Jeff Arnette said he was proud of the way his team (2-8, 2-8 Region 7-AAAA) responded to start the third quarter.
A 14-play, 83-yard drive ended with a sneak from quarterback Jantzen Jeffrey.
“We came out great after haltime,” Arnette said. “We won the second half. Whatever we tell them to do, they do the best they can. They don’t quit.”
Hunter Beeghley finished with 49 yards rushing on 12 carries, and Jantzen had 59 yards on 15 attempts and completed five of 16 passes for all of the team's passing yards.
For complete coverage of all the games, see the next edition of the Forsyth County News. Follow sports writer Phil Ervin on Twitter @PhilErvin_FCN for all the latest in Forsyth County athletics.