CHAMBLEE — Pinecrest Academy coach Todd Winter looked at his senior kicker Christopher Birozes with one simple question.
"Can you make it?" Winter said.
"I got it, coach," Birozes said. "I’ll make it."
Despite a severe angle and what was at stake at the moment, Birozes came through as promised. He nailed an 18-yard field goal with 18 seconds left to lift the Paladins to a 10-7 victory over Cross Keys in a non-region game on Friday at North DeKalb Stadium.
Pinecrest (1-1) was out-gained 260-180 on offense by a Cross Keys team that had lost its past 14 games. The Indians scored on their third play from scrimmage on a 69-yard run to take a 7-0 lead and stun Pinecrest.
"I would say we were shell-shocked," Winter said. "It’s almost like a flash thing went off. Kids are savvy. They can get on the Internet. They can see what a team has done, and they’ve seen [Cross Keys] hasn’t been successful. They think, ‘Hey, this could be a cake walk.’ They’re fast, they score and from there was it was like, ‘OK, what’s going to happen?’"
Not much for the next three quarters. But Pinecrest’s defense, despite starting five freshmen due to injuries, didn’t waver. Aside from Cross Keys’ long touchdown run, the Indians managed just 191 yards of offense. Cross Keys’ quarterback completed just 4 of 16 passes for 58 yards. The Paladins had three sacks, 12 tackles for loss, recovered two fumbles and blocked a punt.
"Bottom line is we played really good defensively," Winter said. "Our defense is going to be the backbone of this game."
Eventually, Paladins freshman quarterback Ryan McCarthy (2-for-8 passing, 53 yards, one interception) connected with wide receiver Logan Hamilton (two catches, 53 yards) for a big play that set up Andrew Wilborn’s 4-yard rushing touchdown to tie the game with 10:59 left in the game. Wilborn finished with 96 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Ten minutes later, Pinecrest drove to Cross Keys’ 1-yard line to set up Birozes dramatic kick.
"We got a little bit better tonight," Winter said.