By Brad Harrison
For the Forsyth County News
MACON — On the scoreboard, the result was a one-sided win for unbeaten Mount de Sales against Pinecrest Academy on Friday night as the Cavaliers took a 50-21 victory.
But that doesn’t mean that the Paladins didn’t trek back home without anything to hang their collective hats on.
Down 36-0 at the half in a role in which many teams would be excused for packing it in against a team that’s bigger and faster, Pinecrest fought to the finish, scoring three times in the second half, including twice within 80 seconds of the third quarter on touchdown passes of 60 and 33 yards from Bryce Balthaser to Ethan Massey.
The Paladins also got another second-half score when Balthaser’s dump-off near the line of scrimmage was taken 30 yards through the heart of the Cavaliers defense for the third Pinecrest score of the game.
Balthaser was 6-of-13 passing for 182 yards, with Tony Novo’s 47 yards pacing Pinecrest on the ground.
The loss keeps the Paladins winless on the season with an 0-5 record. Pinecrest plays next week at Mt. Pisgah.
“That was the whole thing, ‘What are you going to do? How are you going to step up? How are you going to play?’” Pinecrest head coach Terance Mathis said of the Paladins’ approach in the second half. “They were bigger, faster and stronger than we were, and it’s hard to tackle a train. You can’t stop it.”
In the end, the halftime deficit was too much for Pinecrest to fight back from as Mount de Sales showed why it has yet to taste defeat this season.
The Cavaliers’ option-based offense especially took advantage of the Paladins outside the tackles, turning a missed tackle or two into a big play.
Josiah Cotton grinded out 130 yards on seven carries, gaining at least ten yards on five of those attempts.
The big one? A 67-yarder with 26 seconds to go in the first quarter to extend the Cavaliers' lead to 22-0.
Overall, Pinecrest gave up 313 yards on the ground. Pinecrest didn’t help itself early.
After going three-and-out to begin the game, the Paladins could only watch as the Cavaliers drove 69 yards on 15 plays to lead 8-0.
Then, after another three and out, A’Khori Jones ran back the punt 59 yards for a 15-0 lead with 3:08 left in the first quarter.
Mount de Sales slowly pulled away for the rest of the half, getting a 20-yard run from quarterback Dexter Williams and Cotton’s second score of the night, this time from eight yards away.
Pinecrest did have opportunities in the first half to generate momentum.
Three offensive drives in a row began with a penalty against Mount de Sales, but the Paladins were unable to seize the opportunity.
Pinecrest drove past midfield once in the first half, getting as far as the Cavaliers 24 before a Balthaser interception ended the threat.
“They played hard in the second half,” Mathis said. “That’s something we were glad to see.”