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Football: Turnovers plague Paladins in loss
Tigers take advantage of Pinecrest mistakes
Pinecrests Christopher Birozes carries the ball as Kings Ridges Austin Higginbotham tries to tackle him on Friday at the Paladins field. - photo by Autumn Vetter

Todd Winter’s first game as Pinecrest Academy’s head football coach wasn’t a pretty one, but he didn’t necessarily expect it to be.

King’s Ridge Christian School receiver Penny Hart hauled in six receptions for 121 yards and three touchdowns with the help of seven Pinecrest turnovers, as the Tigers defeated the Paladins 45-7 Friday night on the Pinecrest campus.

"I knew it wasn’t going to be easy," said Winter. "This is my sixth program I’ve taken over. I’ve won at every program I’ve taken over. If I’d have came in and we won the game by a lot ... there’s a reason I’m here, let’s face facts."

When faced Friday night, neither the facts nor the turnover margin looked good for Pinecrest.

Five of the Paladins’ turnovers were converted into touchdowns by the Tigers’ offense. In the first half alone, the Paladins (0-1) committed four turnovers and made it into Tiger territory once before eventually turning the ball over on downs.

The Tigers (1-0) took the opening kickoff and drove 79 yards on seven plays, including a 45-yard connection between Tiger quarterback Bailey Miller (7 of 8, 62 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT) and Hart (6 receptions, 121 yards, 3 TDs) down to the Pinecrest 1-yard line.

After two false start penalties, Tarez Miller (4 rushes, 21 yards, 2 TD) made up for the lost yardage and ran into the end zone for the Tigers’ first score.

Looking to answer with 10:08 remaining in the first quarter, Pinecrest’s turnover woes began as quarterback Jimmy Strom was intercepted by King’s Ridge’s Jordan Harris at the Paladins’ 36-yard line.

It took the Tigers seven plays to score a touchdown, with Miller finding Hart for a six-yard completion to cap off the drive and increase the lead to 12-0.

The Paladins’ offense stalled again on the ensuing drive and set up to punt on fourth and nine on their own 33-yard line. But Paladin punter Christopher Birozes had trouble fielding the low snap, allowing King’s Ridge to recover the ball and take it all the way to the Pinecrest 1-yard line.

Two plays later, the Tigers were up 18-0 with 2:01 remaining in the opening quarter.

The Tigers were unsuccessful on each point after attempt after their first three touchdowns.

Poor field position and turnovers continued for the Paladins, resulting in a 32-0 deficit after the first half.

"The whole first half was played on our side of the field, number one," said Winter. "Two, we turned the ball over. Even that botched punt, that’s a turnover, and we threw interceptions. We did not do anything tonight to help ourselves."

The Paladins got a strong performance from running back John Paul Metz, who had 18 rushes for 98 yards, including three carries for 14 yards in the Paladins lone touchdown drive with 4:29 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Metz also had a few big runs negated by holding penalties earlier in the game.

"[Metz] always gives effort. If you give effort, good things are going to happen and he gave great effort," Winter said.

Winter said the team will continue working on execution, ball security and continuing to install his triple option offense — a process he said will take time.

"There’s not doubt we’ll get better," Winter said.

"[The] offense is a very complicated offense. Everybody thinks you can come in with the triple option and be smooth and crisp with it right out the gate. ... Every team I know that runs this offense, it takes three years to get it going."

Pinecrest is off this week. The Paladins return to action against Mount Vernon in an away game on Sept. 14.