By Caleb Byrd
For the Forsyth County News
The Pinecrest Paladins dominated Lanier Christian Academy 44-18 to win the GAPPS Division II state championship Friday night.
The win is a defining moment for Pinecrest as they take home their first state championship trophy in football, and for Shawn Coury, ending his first year as the Paladins' head coach with a glimpse into a hopeful future.
“When all of this started at the end of May, with all the craziness of COVID, I didn’t even get to meet them,” Coury said. “I had to meet them on Google Meets, and there was a core group that wanted to make this happen. We weren’t sure if we were even gonna get to play because of quarantine stuff, and just because of getting our own numbers together. But the GAPPS worked with me to make sure we had a full season, and these dudes came out and worked their butt off all summer, and all season. We got better and better at practice, so here we stand. These dudes weren’t sure if they were gonna get to play at the beginning of summer, and now they’re holding up a state championship trophy. So, I couldn’t be more excited for our school and these boys, and how much they have given to make sure this season happened and that this team succeeds.”
On the field, the Paladins put the accelerator to the floorboard from the beginning and never let off. And it started and finished with the leadership of Bryce “The Blur” Balthaser.
Balthaser fielded a punt at the LCA 40-yard line early in the first quarter, juked the first defender he met, and swiftly moved toward the right side of the field. A few more shifty moves and a broken tackle later and Balthaser was in the end zone for the first score of the ballgame. It was his first of four on the night.
“It feels amazing”, Balthaser said. “It’s crazy because last year we went, what was it, 2-8? And now this year we’re state champs. It’s awesome. I just wanna thank God, my parents, and my coaches. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be here.”
Balthaser rushed for 187 yards on 12 carries, providing three more touchdowns with his legs after the punt return.
Breckin Barbee finds Ryan Bartling for a touchdown
Early in the second quarter, Balthaser went in at quarterback and sent a man in motion. He faked the handoff and sprinted through the open gap between his guard and tackle. The Blur blew past everybody as he sprinted to the end zone, untouched for a 45-yard touchdown.
Just 3 minutes later, the Paladins took back over on offense, and Balthaser lined back up at tailback. He took the handoff and broke through the same gap, untouched again for a 40-yard touchdown run.
Then, late in the third quarter, Balthaser found the end zone again on a short, but hard-fought 1-yard run.
Balthaser’s 187-yard performance made up more than half of the Paladins' offensive production on the night.
But he wasn’t the only distinguished performance. Junior quarterback Breckin Barbee went 8 of 14 for 81 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 85 yards on six carries with a touchdown. Barbee also provided four two-point conversions: two passes, one run, and one catch.
Barbee’s most impressive play of the night came on a two-point conversion attempt early in the third quarter after Balthaser’s 40-yard touchdown run.
Barbee took the snap from the shotgun, and waited patiently in the pocket. He couldn’t find an open receiver, so he began to scramble to his left. He flipped field and sprinted to his right as an LCA lineman began to pursue, and hit the brakes near the sideline as another defender overtook him.
But Barbee ducked, and the defender rolled over him onto the turf. He stepped up, planted his feet, and slung the ball finding junior Colin Brown in the corner of the end zone.
Brown amassed 54 yards on three catches along with the two-point conversion on the night. Sophomore Timothy Conklin had 14 yards receiving on two catches, and junior Ryan Bartling gained 9 yards on one catch for a touchdown.