For two weeks in a row, Pinecrest Academy wasn’t just beating opponents, it was shutting them out. Unfortunately for the Paladins, the favor was nearly returned.
Kevin Metz had a touchdown catch, but it came far too late, as Pinecrest was bothered by sloppy field conditions in a 26-7 setback to George Walton Academy on a wet Friday night. The Paladins are no longer in contention for the region title.
Prior to having their four-game winning streak snapped, the Paladins (5-3-1 overall, 2-1 Region 1-AAA (GISA) were rolling past the competition, handling Mount Vernon, 30-0, and despite the rain, breezing past Central Fellowship, 38-0, last Friday. But in the final regular season home game of the year, Pinecrest fell behind by 26 points and could not recover.
The misfortune started early when quarterback Zach Wilson bobbled a bad snap and the Bulldogs recovered the fumble in the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 7:37 left in the first quarter. From there on, the center-to-quarterback exchange was shaky and the offense followed suit.
“We just made too many errors and we gave a touchdown away at the beginning of the game,” Pinecrest coach Charles Wiggins said.
The Bulldogs offense wasnt much better, but more productive when they were awarded good field position.
Quarterback Luke Duncan found Hunter Finley for a 25-yard touchdown reception with 3:15 remaining before halftime and a 13-0 edge due to a failed two-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff, Pinecrest was plagued by the moisture again when Michael Briemle lost a fumble after being hit, and George Walton was in scoring position once more. With just 39 seconds left in the second quarter, Ty Shelnutt made a catch in the corner of the end zone for a 19-point cushion prior to the missed extra-point attempt.
Coach Wiggins believed the weather was a factor, but did not accept that as an excuse for his teams play. “We throw the ball alot, but still they threw the ball for two touchdowns,” he said.
Instead of defaulting to a couple of conservative running plays, the Paladins opted for a shot at the end zone and some momentum when sophomore Joe Neiner caught a pass and ran for more than 70 yards with just 20 ticks to go in the frame. But Cord Gunnin killed those hopes on the next play by intercepting Wilson.
The Paladins were not a realistic threat from that point on since they consistently dropped passes, mishandled snaps and had balls batted down.
Wiggins summed up the Paladins offensive issues in very simple terms.
“We couldn't catch, we couldn't throw,” he said.
After George Walton added to the margin with a 25-yard score by Tanner Martin early in the fourth and Wilson was intercepted midway through frame, Pinecrest appeared on the way to a shutout loss.
But Metz, who also recorded an interception, refused to be denied, racing down the sideline for 75 yards and paydirt with just 2:22 left in the contest.
Pinecrest ends the regular season with a visit to rival Holy Spirit Prep on Friday night.