By Kurt Main
For the Forsyth County News
Homecoming games are usually scheduled against lesser opponents that provide the best opportunity for the alumni and students to walk out of their stadium with an easy victory.
Well, the Horizon Christian Warriors did not receive that message, and it took 3 ½ hours for the Pinecrest Paladins to narrowly come out on top Friday, 52-48.
Pinecrest received the opening kickoff and promptly turned it over to Horizon on a fumble at the 30-yard line.
Horizon quarterback Nathaniel Lamonde immediately threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to give the Warriors a 6-0 lead.
Pinecrest then turned the ball over on fourth down deep in their own territory. On their first play from scrimmage, Jackson Harris took the ball on a sweep around the right side untouched for another Warrior touchdown, making the score 12-0.
Knowing now that they were in for the fight of their lives, the Paladins took the next kickoff and brought it out to the 46-yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, quarterback Breckin Barbee threw a perfect pass to wide receiver Colin Brown to get the Paladins on the board.
After a couple of three-and-outs by both teams, Pinecrest drove the ball downfield, and on third down Barbee barely missed Oscar Lynch in the end zone, and on fourth down barely missed Lynch again.
Horizon took and over and drove down to the 15-yard line, where Lamonde threw an apparent touchdown to Camden Moore, but the play was called back due to an offensive pass interference call. On the very next play, Lamonde again threw into the end zone but was intercepted by Lynch.
With a change in quarterbacks, Pinecrest began moving the ball downfield with Bryce Balthaser at the helm.
After taking the ball down to the Warrior 31-yard line, Balthaser threw a perfect pass to Brown for the touchdown, giving Pinecrest a 14-12 lead after the two-point conversion from Balthaser to Brock Barbee.
Pinecrest forced another punt by Horizon and Balthaser promptly took off around the right tackle and simply outran the defense on his way to a 52-yard touchdown, making the score 20-12.
After the Paladins’ defense stopped Horizon once again, Balthaser used his arm to throw a 52-yard strike to Brown for the touchdown, and then completed the conversion to Brown for a 28-12 lead.
After an interception by Brown was given back on downs to the Warriors, Lamonde threw a perfect 54-yard pass to Tanner Story to tighten the gap at 28-18.
In the second half, Pinecrest began to dominate on both sides of the ball as Brock Barbee took the ball from 12 yards out and scampered into the end zone, and with the conversion, the Paladins led 36-18.
Not wanting to be the normal homecoming victim, Horizon turned up the heat and closed the gap to 36-24 after a 44-yard touchdown pass from Lamonde to Story.
On the Paladins’ next possession, Barbee threw a quick slant that Lynch turned into a 64-yard touchdown. After the successful two-point conversion, the score was 44-24.
The Warriors took the ensuing kickoff and drove the length of the field, with Camden Moore running over a Paladin defender for a 2-yard touchdown.
Now with the score 44-30, Breckin Barbee came back in the game and promptly threw a beautiful 52-yard pass to Lynch for the touchdown.
Horizon, with time running down the clock and down 52-30, was determined not to go down quietly.
After a huge pass play to tight end Luke Sell down to the 15-yard line, Lamonde threw to Luke Radtke for the touchdown. After getting the ball back once again and driving down to the 8-yard line, Radkte took the ball in on a sweep to the left side bringing the Warriors closer with a score of 52-42.
Pinecrest took the ball over with just a few minutes on the clock and scored another touchdown, but was called back due to a penalty. On the next play, the pass was tipped into the air and intercepted by the Warriors.
On the very next play, Radtke tooke it around the left side for a 9-yard touchdown. The conversion was no good and the Warriors were down to their last hope with an onside kick.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, the ball was kicked out of bounds, giving the Paladins the ball at midfield, and three knees in the victory formation later, and Pinecrest emerged victorious, 52-48.
After the game, Pinecrest head coach Shawn Coury had nothing but good things to say about Horizon and their program, as this was the first time these two teams had met.
“We watched them on film and knew that we had our hands full and this would not be easy,” Coury said. “They have a lot of talent and are well coached. They run a lot of misdirection and are very disciplined and knew that would cause us problems defensively. But we battled all game long and we hung in there until the very end and am very happy with the win on homecoming night.”
And the most fitting ending of all came as the horn sounded at 11 p.m. and all of the stadium lights went out right on cue.