Pinecrest Academy was unable to come back after Kings Ridge Christian Academy used a seven-minute, 16-play drive at the start of the fourth quarter to steal the momentum and score the game-winning points in their 14-7 win over the visiting Paladins.
“Momentum’s huge in the game for our team,” Pinecrest quarterback Micky Mangan said. “If we’re up, we’re strong. When something bad happens, it’s hard to get over that. We just got to find that run in ourselves to really push through.”
Pinecrest (0-6, 0-4) couldn’t have started the game much stronger.
The Paladins began their second drive of the night on their own one-yard line. Five plays later, running back Michael Birozes (11 carries, 55 yards, 2 catches, 95 yards, TD) was crossing the Tigers’ goal line after catching a seam pass from Mangan (11-for-23, 164 yards, TD, INT) and taking it 90 yards to the house.
On their next drive, Pinecrest drove the ball more methodically down the field but ended up missing a 27-yard field goal. The drive after that was a turnover on downs at the Kings Ridge 34-yard line.
Despite the miscues, Pinecrest looked to be heading into the half up 7-0. That was until Kings Ridge receiver Hayden Milling took a screen pass from quarterback Casey Flanigan 45 yards to tie the game with 23 seconds until the break.
“I always tell (my team) three or four plays determine the outcome of the game,” Pinecrest coach Terance Mathis said.
Pinecrest was driving the ball well on their first and only possession of the third quarter, but a personal foul penalty derailed a 16-play drive into a forced punt.
“We march it down, we get a personal foul penalty that put us back. It happens,” Mathis said. “We get down there in the red zone and miss a field goal. It happens.”
Kings Ridge (2-4, 1-3) got the ball and converted a third-and-26 from their own six-yard line with a 25-yard run by Milling down the far sideline. A late hit out of bounds tacked on another 15 yards, and the Tigers suddenly found themselves near midfield.
Five-straight runs by Kings Ridge fullback Christian Smith, including a fourth-and-one, was followed by a couple fakes to the full back with an end-around and a sweep to the outside for 10 and 18 yards respectively. That set the Tigers up first-and-goal at the one-yard-line, and Flanigan finished the drive with a one-yard QB sneak.
Three-straight incompletions on the next drive led to a Pinecrest punt. After forcing a three-and-out, Mangan threw his only interception of the night on the next play.
Pinecrest ended up having one last gasp at capturing their first win of the season after Kings Ridge missed a 38-yard field goal, but with only 40 seconds left, there wasn’t much Mangan could do.
Four incompletions later, the game was over.
“We’ve just got to minimize mistakes,” Mangan said. “We had that penalty. Driving down the whole quarter, it brought us back and stopped the momentum.
“We’ve just got to keep the momentum up. Start fast, finish fast.”