ALPHARETTA – Mitchell Ojeda’s four touchdowns led the way in Pinecrest Academy’s 49-13 win over St. Francis on Friday night.
Special teams made a difference right out of the gate for the Paladins (5-1, 2-0 in Region 6-A, Div. B) as Ojeda took the game’s opening kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown. Ojeda finished the game with nine carries for 60 yards and four total touchdowns.
“I thought we executed all three phases of the game,” Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter said. “Very pleased with our special teams. I thought that was one of the areas we needed to improve upon.”
Early in the second quarter, Ryan McCarthy got the Paladins on the board once again with a punishing 23-yard touchdown run, putting Pinecrest up 21-0.
McCarthy was making plays all over the field in the second quarter. On the ensuing drive, following his touchdown run, McCarthy intercepted Matt Davis’s pass, giving the Paladins the ball just inside St. Francis (1-5) territory.
But he wasn’t done yet.
On fourth down, with McCarthy in at punter, Pinecrest executed a fake punt when he hooked up with Carson Holler for a 31-yard gain. That set up Ojeda’s third touchdown of the game, this one from 2 yards out.
“It was awesome. A fun, fun game,” McCarthy said. “The offensive line blocked really well. Everything was just going well tonight.”
McCarthy had seven carries for 36 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Gregory Varhese led the Paladins in rushing with 19 carries for 73 yards.
It all made for a much different contest than the teams’ meeting last season, when Pinecrest scored 17 points in the final three minutes of regulation and eventually survived in double overtime with a 30-27 win.
“Offensively we just executed the offense tonight,” Winter said. “We had the one turnover, which I wasn’t really happy about, but overall I thought the kids came out and played with a lot of enthusiasm right out of the gate. Last week we came out kinda flat, but this was a game we had to be up and ready for. Last year we probably stole one from these guys, but tonight we left no doubt. We were ready to play tonight.”
The Paladins defense struck again just before halftime when junior Corey Downes picked off another Davis pass and took it 38 yards to the Knights’ 12-yard line.
Pinecrest’s defense was swarming in the first half, holding St. Francis to 44 yards of total offense in the first two quarters. They ended up allowing 229 total yards, but they also forced three interceptions and picked up two sacks.
“I think number one, we had a great week of practice,” Winter said. “They knew what their keys were, they knew what their assignments were, they knew their alignments, and they executed. Athletically they were probably faster than us, but we executed technique. It’s all about technique. There’s no doubt that’s what they did.”
Peter Nelson put the exclamation point on the Paladins’ win with his 23-yard pick-six for Pinecrest’s final points.
“The defense was relentless,” Winter said. “We gave up that score in the second half, missed a couple tackles, but that’s gonna happen. We would’ve liked to have gotten the shutout but we didn’t. We just gotta get ready to play Mount Pisgah.”
Pinecrest Academy 49, St. Francis 13
Pinecrest Acad. 14 21 7 7_49
St. Francis 0 0 7 6_13
P_ Ojeda 98 kickoff return (kick good), 11:44
P_ Ojeda 3 run (kick good), 3:53
P_ McCarthy 23 run (kick good), 11:19
P_ Ojeda 2 run (kick good), 4:05
P_ Ojeda 1 run (kick good), 0:20
SF_ Davis 4 run (kick good), 9:32
P_ McCarthy 2 run (kick good), 5:52
P_ Nelson 23 interception return (kick good), 5:06
SF_ Showell 4 run (kick no good), 0:28