Two contrasting passing plays fueled a Pinecrest Academy comeback in the Region 8-A opener.
With the help of a 43-yard reception by Zach Guard and an interception by Alex Brenner, Pinecrest scored 13 points during the final 2:17 and defeated Lakeview 30-20 on Friday at the Paladins’ field.
"This is the kind of a game where you learn to fight with your backs against a wall," Pinecrest coach Todd Winter said. "[Lakeview is] a great team, played us tough all night, but our guys just kept fighting and made some big plays at the end of the game to win."
Trailing 20-17 with just over two minutes remaining, Paladins quarterback Jimmy Strom connected with Guard for a 43-yard touchdown pass that put the Paladins (2-1, 1-0 Region 8-A) up 24-20.
On the third play of Lakeview’s ensuing possession, Brenner intercepted Lakeview quarterback Ted Reynolds for the second time and returned the ball to the Lions’ 3-yard line. Strom carried the ball into the end zone on the next play to seal the win.
The Lions (2-1, 0-1) turned the ball over five times during the game.
"We’ve got to evaluate what went wrong and improve," Lakeview coach Matthew Gruhn said. "Our guys fought the whole game, but [Pinecrest] played a great game. That’s a good team that kept fighting, and they deserved to win."
Pinecrest scored the first points of the night in the second quarter following a Lakeview fumble.
The Paladins faced a 3rd-and-8 on the Lakeview 30-yard line when Christopher Birozes completed a halfback pass to Zach Guard (84 yards receiving, 2 TD) for a touchdown with 11:34 left in the second period.
Lakeview answered on its next drive with a 13-yard run by Caleb Faulkner (43 yards rushing, TD) to tie the game 7-7 with 8:22 left in the first half.
Lakeview then took a 14-7 lead with a score just 35.4 seconds before halftime. With the Lions’ offense facing a fourth-and-10 at the Paladins’ 25-yard line, Reynolds (134 yards rushing, 157 yards passing, 2 TD) completed a pass to Trevor Price (83 yards rushing, 50 yards receiving, TD) for the score.
Pinecrest opened the second half with the ball and drove to the Lakeview 19-yard line, where Birozes hit a 36-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-10 with 5:44 left in the third quarter.
With Lakeview still leading early in the fourth quarter, it was the Paladins’ special teams that came through.
Pinecrest was punting with 9:46 left in the game when Birozes delivered a nearly 60-yard punt that pushed the Lions return man inside the Lakeview 5-yard line.
The Paladins forced a fumble, which Jacob Hanley recovered at the Lakeview 2-yard line.
Two plays later, Strom took it in from a yard out to give Pinecrest a 17-14 lead with 9:03 to play.
Pinecrest had a chance to put the game away two plays later, when Hanley intercepted Reynolds and set the Paladins’ offense up at the Lakeview 46-yard line.
But Pinecrest’s drive stalled and Lakeview got the ball back inside its own 10-yard line.
On the second play of the drive, Reynolds went around the left side for a 94-yard touchdown run that put the Lions on top 20-17 with 4:41 left in the game.
The final 4:41 belonged to the Paladins, though, and the fifth Lakeview turnover of the night proved to be the killer as it gave Strom his second touchdown in three series.
"Our kids never surrendered," Winter said. "When you win a game like this it tells you that no matter what you can come back."
The Paladins travel to Hebron Christian Academy on Friday.