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'Never a doubt': Pinecrest boys win region title against Fellowship
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Sebastian Santa Maria dribbles past the Fellowship defender on Thursday, April 15. Santa Maria scored the first and game-winning goal for the Paladins in a game which decided the region title. - photo by Jacob Smith

In Pinecrest Academy’s only region loss of the season against King’s Ridge, the team was up 2-0 early before junior Colin Brown received his second yellow card of the game, causing Pinecrest to play 11 versus 10 soccer.

King’s Ridge came back to win 3-2 and the feeling of the loss being on his shoulders did not leave Brown’s mind until tonight, when Brown scored two of Pinecrest’s three goals against Fellowship to give them the 3-0 victory and their first region championship. 

“[Brown] had felt like he let the team down,” Pinecrest coach Domenic Martelli said. “In response, he’s had a couple great games and tonight he knew this was for the championship. He showed it. He was all over the field. At the end, he even shored us up on the defensive line.” 

Just seven minutes into the game, Sebastian Santa Maria send a line drive to the left of the goalie’s diving attempt to score what would be enough for the Paladins, but they did not stop there. 

Brown juked the Fellowship goalie out of the box on both of his goals in the game. Thomas Peleasz ran with the ball down the field and sent Brown a chip pass that led him right past the goalie on his first.

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“I’m very proud of the boys,” Martelli said. “Once the whistle blew tonight, there was never a doubt. They couldn’t see that far ahead into the season, but I could. They’ve gotten better every game. We’re excited. It’s great for the school.”

Martelli was still flabbergasted at the end of the game about how ready his team was to play at the first whistle. He said he talked to his team about not letting Fellowship dictate the pace of the game but that his guys took control of the game and never gave it up.

“We didn’t want [Fellowship’s] physicality and up tempo to outdo us,” Martelli said. “So we made sure we played really good soccer to get that first goal.” 

Though Pinecrest finished the season with a 6-10 record, the combined record of their non-region opponents they lost to was 73-42. Martelli said even with the big losses against opponents like South Forsyth and Blessed Trinity, he saw glimpses of his team’s greatness.

Pinecrest’s region championship means the Paladins will host their first Class 1A Private playoff game, and if they win, are guaranteed to host the second game as well. 

“Number one, we have a beautiful turf field,” Martelli said. “Great size and we’re comfortable here. The crowd, the support, the fan base, the students ... it’s gonna be great for them to come out and play. The main thing is making sure that you play on a good field.” 

Though he was not sure exactly how his team would celebrate the victory, Martelli said that he will drill into his team’s heads that their season restarts at the start of the tournament.

“We see what we can do and now we have to prove why we won the region,” Martelli said. 

No time has been scheduled for the first-round match. 

Pinecrest Academy's boys soccer team captured the Region 6-1A Private championship Thursday following a 3-0 victory against Fellowship Christian. Photo submitted