By Cole Rogers
For the Forsyth County News
The Pinecrest Paladins ended their 2019 season with a convincing 28-7 home win against the Mount Zion Eagles on Friday night.
The Paladins started the game off hot with a huge kickoff return by Sawyer Hoffstetler, which set up a 30-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Balthaser to Ethan Massey.
Pinecrest continued to find success in the passing game throughout the night and couldn’t be stopped when passing it deep. Balthaser went 11 of 16 for 224 yards, three touchdowns and an interception.
Massey also had a great game with five receptions for 154 yards and two touchdowns. He also had a productive night defensively with several tackles and two fumble recoveries.
The Mount Zion defense wasn’t able to stop the Pinecrest offense very often, but they showed that they could have a very impressive rush defense in the future.
The Paladin defense, on the other hand, was much more efficient all night long.
Pinecrest held Mount Zion scoreless in the first half, and turned on the pressure in the second half with five turnovers.
The defense caused fumbles left and right, and the few times Mount Zion did pass, a Paladin was there to grab it.
“Our defense was awesome,” Pinecrest coach Terance Mathis said. “We knew they weren’t going to throw the ball, so we were prepared to get some turnovers and we capitalized on pretty much every one of them.”
The lone Mount Zion score came late in the fourth quarter when Dakota Browning scored on a 78-yard touchdown run.
Browning had 15 rushes for 154 yards and a touchdown. His ability to break through the line and change direction on a dime was extremely impressive, but he couldn’t win the game for the Eagles by himself.
The Paladins may have looked better on Friday night, but they struggled for the majority of their 2019 season with youth and a lack of roster depth.
Unfortunately, those issues won’t be alleviated since they will be losing several playmakers on both sides of the ball.
On offense they will be losing their top receivers in Massey and Sawyer Huffstetler, and they will be losing Joey Kiernan and Bill Bear on defense as well.
Despite losing those veteran players, Mathis believes Pinecrest will be better because of how close of a group they are.
“It’s a family around here. We created a culture around here of family and we’re a close-knit family,” Mathis said. “It’s great these seniors go out with a win. It’s wonderful to see.”
The 2020 Paladins won’t be a young team, but they will have several players that they’ll rely on for veteran experience like Balthaser, running back Tony Novo and linebacker Jesus Villareal.
“The seniors are going to make sure they’re ready for next year. Coach Mathis is going to make sure they’re ready, too,” Massey said. “They’re going to be a solid team next year. I know they will be.”