It had been almost two years for the Pinecrest Academy football team, and it hadn't happened at all during the tenure of head coach Terance Mathis, now three games into his second season with the program. But last week's game against Mount de Sales was a stronger sign than ever. The Paladins had a chance, with the ball near the opposing goal line with less than two minutes to play, but they lost a fumble and, soon after, the game.
Seven days later, the breakthrough came. Pinecrest put together what Mathis called a "total, complete game" on Friday on the road at Athens Christian and beat the Eagles 33-6 for the first regulation victory of Mathis' head coaching career. (Pinecrest won a game by forfeit over South last season when the War Eagles used an ineligible player in the game.)
"It feels good," Mathis said after the victory. "It's been a long time coming."
The Paladins and Eagles exchanged scores in the first quarter, but the Paladins had all the points after that. Mathis saw every part of the offense contribute: the line created holes that Patrick Sullivan hit; Ryan Difazio was effective at quarterback, finding tight end David Stubbs for a long touchdown in the second quarter; and the defense made tackles and created turnovers.
"We put it all together for the first time since I've been here," Mathis said.
After the game ended, the team soaked Mathis in whatever was in the cooler -- he couldn't tell if it was water or Gatorade -- and gathered to hear from the coach. The mood was certainly joyful, but not in an unbridled sense. The Paladins enjoyed the win, but also recognized that it doesn't have to be their last.
"They know that we still have a long season ahead of us," Mathis said. "And that's what I love about them."