Pinecrest Academy kicked their season off on an ideal note – forcing a three and out with back-to-back sacks, leading to a methodical eight minute drive with a 1-yard plunge into the end zone by junior Matthew Walters. To the dislike of Paladins fans, the team didn’t keep the same tempo the entire night, their smash mouth approach losing fire and effectiveness as the night advanced in a 24-21 loss to Wesleyan in a scrimmage Friday at home.
Despite the loss, Pinecrest coach Todd Winter was spirited after the game. Winter was proud of his team, noting the resilience they displayed throughout. He also was proud of how a handful of his players battled through injuries to finish the game.
Winter also took Friday night as a measurement. He reflected on how the Paladins fell to Wesleyan 50-7 in 2010 and 42-14 in 2011 in regular season games, tonight’s margin being much more slim than that of previous years. He was excited with the progress the team showed, hoping that it is an indication of good things to come this season.
Sophomore quarterback Ryan McCarthy showed great poise leading his offense in the first half. He orchestrated the Paladins’ opening touchdown drive. He had a 49-yard run. He put Pinecrest up 14-7 with a 2-yard touchdown run. He gave the Paladins their last lead with a 19-yard touchdown pass to Adam Guard to go up 21-14.
There were still some evident bumps along the road. A few high snaps, some jumpy offensive penalties and a poor pitch from McCarthy that led to a turnover didn’t seem to have a negative effect on the team’s morale as they were able to maintain a lead through the majority of the game.
On the other side of the football, Pinecrest’s defense came out stout. They recorded at least one sack on the first four Wesleyan possessions, including two by junior Walters. Despite the defense’s efforts, they were victims of the big play. Wesleyan junior Jordan Argilagos showed off his explosive abilities as he took a short screen pass for a 61-yard touchdown, coupled with a 21-yard score later in the game.
The youth and inexperience began to show as the game developed and second string players were inserted. Flags flew on an array of penalties on both sides, and it became evident that Pinecrest’s running attack was falling apart. Pinecrest carried a 7-point lead into the fourth quarter, but a Paladins turnover gave Wesleyan the chance to run the clock out. The Wolves ran it down to under a minute before they made a field goal to give them the lead for good.
The Paladins had one more shot, turning the ball over again as their hopes for the game ran out.
Walters had his name called a lot during the game. The junior who is already garnering the attention of some Division I schools played a good game, ran for 53 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown. On defense, Walters recorded several tackles along with two sacks.
After the game, Walters was quick to compliment the offensive line for the work they put in, crediting the success that he and quarterback McCarthy had to their blocking. The two combined for 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns. McCarthy was 5-for-12 passing for 103 yards and a touchdown.
Walters also was not satisfied with the outcome of the game.
"There is always room for improvement," Walters said. "We have more to work on until we reach our goals."