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Football: Defensive touchdowns boost Pinecrest past Notre Dame Academy
Pinecrest graphic 08-19-22

Pinecrest Academy used a stellar defensive performance to open its 2022 season with a 21-0 win against Notre Dame Academy Friday at home.

"Coach [Brennen] Booth did a great job preparing his boys," Paladins head coach Shawn Coury said of his counterpart. "They played hard."

Notre Dame won the toss and elected to defer. On the opening kickoff, Paladins freshman Jacob White found an opening to the left and sprinted for 38 yards, setting the Pinecrest up across midfield on the Notre Dame 49.

On the ensuing drive, a great third-down play by Notre Dame's defensive end Bailey Dawkins put the Paladins in a hole, and they were forced to punt.

Notre Dame began its first offensive possession on its own 18. After three quick runs and a fierce Paladins defense, Notre Dame was forced to punt. What looked like a rugby style punt quickly developed into a great fake, as the Irish Wolfhounds punter found Andrew Montello in the flats for a 9-yard gain and a Notre Dame first down.

Notre Dame started the fresh set of downs with back-to-back 20-yard runs, moving the ball to the Pinecrest 28. A Notre Dame holding penalty slowed the momentum, and the Irish Wolfhounds set up for a 44-yard field goal. The kick was good, but an illegal procedure call kept the points off the board. Notre Dame elected to punt following the penalty.

"We could not find an early answer to stop their running attack," Coury said. "The fake punt was an excellent call that caught us sleeping."

As the game progressed, the Pinecrest offense continued to struggle, as a Notre Dame safety picked off senior quarterback John Olah's first-down pass. The pick set the Hounds up on the Paladins' 43-yard line.

Notre Dame failed to get moving, though, as sophomore Johnny Lynch and senior Brock Barbee made huge stops on consecutive plays, resulting in a fourth-and-20 for the Irish Wolfhounds. Lynch added to the defensive mayhem, as he blocked the Notre Dame punt. As the Notre Dame punter scooped the ball to try to save the play, junior Alex White took him down.

A drive that started with Notre Dame set up in Paladins territory resulted in a Pinecrest first down on the Notre Dame 30-yard line. 

Barbee took the first-down handoff 18 yards, setting the Paladins up on the 12-yard line. Jacob White, now in at QB, took the option read around the left end and down to the Notre Dame 2 before being knocked out of bounds.

The Paladins capped the drive with a 2-yard dive up the middle, as workhorse Barbee plowed through the line for the Paladins' first touchdown of 2022. Sophomore Pablo Nunez punched the extra point over the uprights to give the Paladins a 7-0 lead.

Notre Dame began its next series on its own 14-yard line. An attempted forward pitch by the Hounds resulted in a 14-yard pick-6 for outside linebacker Alex White, as he grabbed the bobbled ball and sprinted into the end zone. Another point-after try by Nunez put the Paladins up 14-0.

Notre Dame returned the Pinecrest kickoff to the 44-yard line to set up its next series.

On second-and-4, freshman Maxx McCray stormed into the backfield, taking down the Notre Dame QB. The 5-yard loss set up a third-and-9, and the Paladins' momentum seemed to continue.

However, Khylee Jackson took the Irish Wolfhounds' sweep around the left edge for 16 yards, setting Notre Dame up with an important first down. The Irish Wolfhounds went to Jackson again with the toss sweep to the left, but this time Johnny Lynch was there to blow it up for a 7-yard loss. On third-and-20, Barbee blitzed into the backfield, causing the Notre Dame runner to retreat and bounce it wide — right into outside linebacker Jacob White, who took the runner clear off of his feet.

The huge play put Notre Dame in a tough fourth-and-30 situation.

The Paladins, who will host Calvary Christian at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26, took over at their own 21-yard line.

A quick 20-yard completion from Olah to junior receiver Luke Coury set the Paladins up with first-and-10 on the 41. Then Olah hit Jacob White with a 16-yard strike for a first down on the Notre Dame 43. Olah hit Coury for 8 yards, and then connected with White to get down to the 19-yard line.

The offensive pace was picking up, as the Paladins covered 60 yards in one minute. The momentum stalled with a bobbled snap that resulted in a 6-yard loss. A 5-yard run and two incomplete passes ended the drive on fourth down, and the Irish Wolfhounds took over.

Pinecrest's defense continued to swarm, as Barbee flew into the backfield on a Notre Dame sweep, making a great tackle for a loss of 6. Lynch followed suit, coming down from the safety spot to force a loss of 5. The Paladins sent Barbee off their left edge on third-and-21, and the blitz resulted in a 5-yard sack. The Irish Wolfhounds punted the ball away, giving the Paladins the ball on the Notre Dame 46.

Barbee opened the drive with a 22-yard run off the left tackle. An incomplete pass on first down set up a second-and-10, but Olah kept the ball on a designed QB run to advance to the 18. The Paladins offense stalled as a third-down pass fell short and a fourth-down pass bounced off the hands of the receiver.

The Paladins' D would be asked to rise up again. As the Irish Wolfhounds took over, the relentless Pinecrest defense met the challenge.

A swarm of Paladins — led by Barbee — met the Notre Dame running back on the left sideline for an 8-yard loss. On second down, a QB pressure by the trio of Bennet Gebelein, Leo Groza and Alex White led to a fumble that Pinecrest's Jacob White recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. The Nunez extra point made the score 21-0 in favor of the Paladins.

The Paladins defense would take the field again following the kickoff. Notre Dame began its drive on the 32-yard line only to have Groza bust into the backfield and tally a 10-yard sack as time expired.

"A few key first half injuries put Notre Dame in a tough spot and our defense found a way to get control of the game and help our offense," Coury said. "The two defensive scores gave us a huge boost. Our offense will continue to improve and perfect our execution. I am proud of how hard our boys play. We are really tackling well and flying to the ball. We will continue to grow every week."