Pinecrest Academy is heading into the state playoffs on the right foot, as the Paladins knocked off rival Holy Spirit Prep in Buckhead on Friday night, 42-25.
The result pushed Pinecrest to 6-0 all-time against Holy Spirit, and sends the Paladins into the GISA state playoffs with a 6-3-1 record and the No. 2 seed out of Region 1-AAA.
Down 7-0 late in the first, Pinecrest tied the game with 34 seconds left in the quarter, when quarterback Zach Wilson completed a 42-yard pass to Joe Neiner for a touchdown, with Neiner following solid blocking from Bryce Haynes down the field. Haynes was back in action for the Paladins after suffering a broken wrist earlier in the year.
Wilson would be involved on six scores during the game, throwing four touchdowns and running for two more.
The junior quarterback completed a 25-yard scoring pass to Haynes with 10:07 left in the first half to put the Paladins up 14-7, but Holy Spirit came back with a score at the 2:25 mark of the second quarter. A missed extra point left things 14-13.
Wilson completed a 15-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Metz with just five ticks left in the first half, giving the Paladins a 21-13 lead at the break.
A two-yard keeper from Wilson on Pinecrest's first possession of the third quarter put the visitors up 28-13, and Wilson held the ball again on an 18-yard scoring run with 19 seconds left in the third.
A 40-yard scoring pass against the Pinecrest defense was followed by a failed two-point conversion for Holy Spirit in the fourth quarter, and the Paladins came back with a 43-yard scoring pass from Wilson to Metz to make things 42-19.
Holy Spirit scored a late touchdown against the Paladin reserves to close out the scoring.
Among the defensive highlights for Pinecrest, defensive lineman E.J. Bueltel came up with an interception followed by a solid return to the Holy Spirit 24 in the fourth quarter.
Pinecrest finishes up with a 3-1 region record, and will be at home for the first round of the playoffs on Friday.
Pinecrest head coach Charles Wiggins credited Neiner and Metz for solid performances, but added that the Paladins will need to tighten up on mistakes if they hope to advance far into the postseason.