It was bend but don’t break for Pinecrest Academy on Friday night.
The Paladin defense came up with two big plays deep in their own territory, delivering a fourth-down stand and recovering a fumble en route to a 28-7 home win over Dublin’s Trinity Christian School in the first round of the GISA Class AAA state playoffs.
Pinecrest coach Charles Wiggins was anticipating a more ground-oriented offense from the Crusaders (1-10) since the teams met earlier in the year, and was happy with the way his team performed in the rematch.
“We knew that we were going to have a little bit of difficulty matching up with their new offense. We managed to make some defensive changes and adjustments, and went back in at halftime and looked at what they were doing ... and were able to close ‘em down in the second half,” Wiggins said.
For Pinecrest (7-3-1), the result kept the season alive and set up a likely match with top-ranked Tattnall Square Academy in Macon on Nov. 14.
Kevin Metz gained 41 rushing yards for the Paladin offense, but he made the most of them, running in three touchdowns.
“He’s one of the best players,” Wiggins said. “When he steps on the field, he demands respect from his teammates and from anybody that we play, and so it’s just a great opportunity to have players on our team like Kevin Metz.”
Leading 21-7 at halftime, Pinecrest scored the only points of the second half after a Javier Callejas interception set up the Paladins on the Crusader 15-yard line midway through the third quarter.
The Paladins needed just two plays to score, with Metz earning an eight-yard touchdown run to make things 28-7 with 6:02 left in the third.
Trinity Christian drove down to the Pinecrest 22 on the ensuing possession, but a fumble ended the drive. It was Trinity’s deepest penetration of the second half.
The Paladin defense also came up big late in the first quarter, with Pinecrest leading 14-0 after touchdown runs of four yards by quarterback Zach Wilson (208 total yards) and one yard by Metz.
Trinity’s Eli Green returned a kickoff to the Pinecrest 45, and the Crusaders managed to drive inside the red zone. Facing a fourth-and-five at the 15, the Crusaders opted to go for it instead of kicking a field goal, and were stuffed for just one yard.
Trinity finally got on the board with 6:43 left before halftime, on a three-yard run by quarterback Chris Hobbs.
Pinecrest managed to reclaim the 14-point lead on a bruising four-yard run by Metz with 4:02 left before halftime.
A heavy rain settled in briefly during the first half, but things had dried up by halftime.
Wiggins noted that it was the first playoff win in school history, and said he was happy with the result from a team with only one starting senior.
“We’re just happy to be where we are ... It’s all gravy here [after this], and we just love it and enjoy what we have here,” the coach said.