Football proved to be a game of inches for Pinecrest Academy on Friday as they played host to Commerce on senior night.
Pinecrest came into the game with hopes of earning their first winning season since joining the Georgia High School Association. Commerce had several close spots go their way as they converted first downs in crucial situations. The Tigers’ good fortune aided them in keeping the ball for the majority of the night, as they finished with a total time of possession of 34:29 and dealt the Paladins a 24-14 loss in a Region 8-A game.
Pinecrest finished the season 5-5 overall and 2-4 in the region.
"I thought our defense played really well," Pinecrest coach Todd Winter said. "We had a couple of tough spots that didn’t go our way, but I thought the guys played with a lot of heart and determination tonight."
Coach Winter’s young team came out ready to play, as they seized the early momentum after the Tigers received the opening kick. The Pinecrest defense forced a punt and gave the offense possession at the Commerce 45 yard line. On the second play from scrimmage, Paladins running back Anthony Carco threw a halfback pass, rolling out to the right and finding Nick Palmer downfield for a 43 yard touchdown to give Pinecrest a 7-0 lead.
The ensuing Commerce drive was a testament to its ability to control the ball. The Tigers relied heavily on their running game as they orchestrated a game-tying touchdown drive that lasted almost 13 minutes and included three successful fourth down conversions. Commerce added another touchdown before the half, giving them a 14-7 lead.
After halftime the Paladins offense struggled to find consistency, while the Commerce running game continued to grind out first downs. The Tigers were able to add a touchdown and a field goal in the third quarter, extending their lead to 24-7 entering the game’s final quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Pinecrest offense cut the deficit to 24-14 when quarterback Ryan McCarthy found Carco across the middle for a 35 yard catch and run that resulted in a touchdown. Carco went seemingly untouched as he weaved through Commerce defenders on his way to the end zone, and gave his team a glimmer of hope with 8:32 left in the game.
After a failed onside kick attempt by Pinecrest, the Tigers’ running game once again ran over six minutes off the clock. The Paladins took over on downs with 2:18 left, but it was too little. Commerce forced the Paladins to punt from their own end zone. The Tigers ran out the clock and sealed a 24-14 win.
Though the Paladins were unable to send their seniors out with a win, two members of their graduating class stood out on Friday as running backs Anthony Carco and Andrew Wilborn combined for 67 rushing yards on just 13 attempts. Carco also added a passing touchdown, receiving touchdown and interception to his tally.