By Derrick Richemond
For the Forsyth County News
The Pinecrest Paladins escaped a late comeback from the North Georgia Falcons on Friday to get their fifth consecutive win, 21-14.
The Paladins started their first drive with a big chunk of plays. Whether it was on the ground or from the air, Falcons could not keep up.
The highlight of the possession came when wide receiver Colin Brown caught a pass over three Falcon defenders. That gave head coach Shawn Coury a confidence boost to draw up another passing play, and quarterback Breckin Barbee rolled right and hit wide receiver Ryan Bartling for the first touchdown of the game.
The Paladins defense kept the Falcons' offense contained and forced them to punt.
In the second quarter, the Falcons made a gutsy call during their third drive to go for it on fourth-and-4. The pocket closed very quickly resulting in the Falcons QB rushing the pass, which landed in the hands of Bartling for a pick-six for his second straight touchdown. Bartling's second score increased the lead by 14 points.
On a fourth-and-13, the Falcons decided to go for it again but with a different approach. The long snapper snapped the ball to the punter, but instead of punting, he took off to run. The Paladins swarmed to the ball to prevent the Falcons from getting the first down, and the turnover on downs gave Pinecrest the ball on the Falcons' 38-yard line.
On the first play of Pinecrest’s possession, Barbee dropped back, scrambled, fooled a defender by pump-faking, and took off for a 19-yard gain. However, a short pass, two incompletions, and a sack by the Falcons forced Pinecrest to bring the field goal unit onto the field.
The Falcons dug themselves in a hole by picking up two flags and giving Pinecrest another shot score inside the 10-yard line after missing the field goal. Barbee dropped back to throw and found running back Brock Barbee in stride on a drag route. Brock Barbee then broke a Falcons defender's ankle that sends him into the end zone to punch it in for the touchdown.
The Paladins went into the locker room with a 21-0 lead.
In the second half, turnovers became an issue for both teams. Fighting for extra yards, Brock Barbee coughed up the football for the first turnover of the game, but the Falcons gave it right back with an interception by Matthew Mitchell.
Turnover on downs seemed to be a remedy for the second half; neither team could get a good drive going without the penalties pushing them back.
It wasn’t until North Georgia switched out quarterbacks to start making plays. At this point, the Falcons needed to take some risk to get a score on the board, and that happened when wide receiver Chris Stokes caught a deep pass in stride, then ran it in for Falcons' first score of the game. The two-point conversion failed.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Falcons launched another deep ball to wide receiver Quandravious Hambrick, who leapt up in the air for the jump ball to get the touchdown. This time, the Falcons got the two-point conversion to cut Pinecrest's lead to seven points.
The Falcons had no more timeouts left, and the clock was on the Paladins' side. Pinecrest kneeled the ball to capture their fifth consecutive win.
Pinecrest [7-1] is back in action Oct. 29 at The King's Academy.