Pinecrest Academy showed total dominance in all three phases in a 37-0 victory over Hebron Christian at home on Friday in a Region 8-A showdown.
Pinecrest (4-1, 1-0) took control of the game early and its stellar defensive effort made the entire game an uphill climb for the Lions’ offense. The Paladins forced four turnovers, including a blocked punt, held Hebron Christian to negative five rushing yards and shut out a Lions team that came in averaging 25 points per game.
"I was extremely proud of our team and I thought our defense was very well prepared for this week’s game," Pinecrest coach Todd Winter said. "Hebron runs a complex scheme and I thought the kids did a great job watching tape and preparing themselves to try and stop what they were throwing at us."
The Paladins offense got things going early, marching the ball down the field and cashing in an efficient drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ryan McCarthy to running back Anthony Carco with 7:39 left in the first quarter.
Five minutes later, Adam Guard intercepted Hebron quarterback Conner Holliday to set up a 12-yard touchdown run by Carco to put Pinecrest ahead 14-0.
"I really have to give it to my teammates," Guard said. "They pushed the line and gave me an opportunity to get in there and make some plays. Without the defensive line getting such a good push we wouldn’t have been able to make all those sacks and create pressure to force turnovers."
The defense was not the only Pinecrest unit getting a good push along the line, as the special teams made what turned out to be the premier play of the night. Hebron lined up to punt inside its own 10 with eight minutes left in the second quarter. Linebacker Matthew Walters broke through the line and got a hand on the ball, popping it up in the air and into the hands of Logan Hamilton as he lunged into the end zone to make it 21-0.
After the Paladins’ defense once again held the Lions’ offense, pinning them inside their own 20 yard line, the special teams forced yet another turnover. A fumbled snap by the Lions punter was recovered at the 9 yard line and set Pinecrest up with a chance to extend its lead once again. After advancing the ball to the Hebron 1, running back Greg Varghese rumbled across the goal line to make the score 28-0 with 4:30 left in the half.
Just before the half, McCarthy connected with Christopher Birozes for a 42-yard pass down the sideline. The completion put the Paladins on the Hebron 20 with seven seconds left after the offense hurried downfield to spike the ball and give kicker Alex Brenner a shot at a 39-yard field goal. Brenner split the uprights as time expired, giving the Paladins a commanding 31-0 lead as the teams headed for the locker room.
In the second half, the Pinecrest offense stuck to the running game to chew up the clock. The Paladins attempted just five passes the entire game.
Fullback Andrew Wilborn rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries. Carco had nine carries for a touchdown and 107 yards, including a 66-yard run that set up Mitchell Ojeda’s 5-yard score with 3:40 left in the third quarter for the game’s final score.