Pinecrest Academy finished off the first half of the season with a big win Friday, building a 21-point halftime lead and going on to a 37-22 home win over Dawson Street Academy.
Pinecrest (2-2-1) set the tone early, opening up with a 55-yard touchdown drive, which ended when Michael Cassandra (two touchdowns) ran four yards for a score less than three minutes into the game.
Kevin Metz (two touchdowns) scored on a four-yard run on the Paladins’ next possession, putting Pinecrest on top 14-0 with 4:20 left in the first period.
The visiting Wildcats from LaGrange got on the board with a big play, a pass that went 75 yards for a score with 1:24 left in the first. Dawson Street missed the ensuing two-point conversion to leave the score at 14-6 after a quarter of play.
Paladin kicker Rico Garcia got a workout in the second quarter, hitting a 37-yard field goal to put Pinecrest up 17-6, followed by a 31-yard kick with 6:34 left before halftime to stretch the lead to 14.
Garcia’s second field goal followed an interception by Metz on the Wildcat 30.
With under a minute left before the half, Cassandra ran six yards for a score, putting the Paladins up 27-6 at intermission.
The lead swelled to 30-6 with 7:54 left in the third, as Garcia hit his third field goal of the night, a 34-yarder.
Dawson Street scored on a 25-yard touchdown run with 26 seconds left in the third, then hit a two-point conversion to pull within 16 points after three periods.
A 49-yard field goal attempt by Garcia in the fourth quarter fell about a yard short, and the Wildcats then scored on an 80-yard pass play, hitting another two-pointer to pull with 30-22 with 8:50 to play.
Pinecrest answered with a touchdown drive, as Metz ran 16 yards for his second score. With 4:46 to play, Pinecrest freshman Preston Stafford forced a fumble with Nic Dow-Cotie jumping on the ball to ice the game.
Pinecrest offensive coordinator Shawn Coury, who joined the Paladin program from South Forsyth High, was impressed with how the offense played.
“We fired off the ball well. Our backs blocked for each other. Our offensive line really controlled the line of scrimmage tonight,” Coury said.
Head coach Charles Wiggins feels like the Paladins have a good shot at winning their GISA region 1-AAA, a year after coming out on top of Region 1-AA.
“We’re about where we thought we’d be. We are ready to defend our region title,” Wiggins said.
Pinecrest has one more nonregion game on the schedule, Friday, when the Paladins host Trinity Christian School from Dublin.