By Mackenzie Bates
For the Forsyth County News
Walker junior running back Keon Smart rushed for 143 yards on 21 attempts and accounted for three touchdowns as the Wolverines defeated Pinecrest Academy 28-7 Friday night in Cumming.
The Wolverines (2-2) had 222 yards on the ground against the Paladins.
With Walker running on its first 12 plays, their game plan from the start to establish the ground game. The Wolverines’ first drive went 72 yards, capped off by Smart’s 6-yard run.
Walker got the ball back on the ensuing possession after a Paladin fumble. Four plays later, Smart found the end zone again from three yards out to make it a 14-0 lead.
Walker ran out to a 21-point lead midway through the second quarter. Quarterback Charlie Condon engineered another long sustaining drive of 12 plays for 75 yards. Condon’s keeper inside the 5-yard line increased Walker’s lead to three scores.
“We had a chance,” Pinecrest head coach Terance Mathis said. “The score might not say it, but this game was closer than what the score indicated. Our guys fought after getting down that early and we like to see that. Now it’s about getting that consistency where we can create opportunities to score on the other end of the field.”
Pinecrest went right the air right before halftime. Quarterback Bryce Balthaser completed a 21-yard pass to Sawyer Huffstetler on the first play of the Paladins' lone scoring drive. After getting inside Walker territory, Balthaser connected with Breckin Barbee on a 26-yard post pattern for the touchdown.
Midway through the third quarter, Pinecrest was putting together a drive deep inside Wolverine territory. Tony Novo took the handoff and raced for the pylon with defenders chasing him. As he dove for the pylon, the referees ruled there was a fumble that was recovered by Walker. Mathis saw it differently.
“It was a touchdown,” Mathis said. “He fell and hit the ground and the ball came out. The ground can’t cause a fumble.”
Late in the fourth quarter, Balthaser completed several passes to try and bring Pinecrest back to within striking distance. But two costly interceptions late, including one to Smart that led to a 46-yard interception return touchdown, handed the Paladins their fourth straight loss to start the 2019 season.
“No matter what the score is in the game, there are going to be three or four plays that determine the game,” Mathis said. “We had a kickoff that we took down to their 30. It ended up being fourth and (34). The fumble on an apparent touchdown and the interception late. That’s three plays.”
“If we score those three times, we win the ballgame.”
Balthaser was 12 of 24 for 149 yards and one score. Huffstetler caught 5 passes for 89 yards.
“I’m proud of Bryce but we know he can play better,” Mathis said. “I tell our guys let’s work for perfection and if we don’t reach that, at least we gained excellence.”
Mathis had a message for his team after the game. They’re down, but not out.
“You never know what’s going to happen in a season,” Mathis said. “We could rattle off five or six in a row. I believe in these kids and we’ll get these mistakes figured out.”
Pinecrest will try again for its first win of the season next Friday when they travel to Macon to face Mt. De Sales Academy.