Pinecrest Academy did just enough to hold off a late rally by Athens Christian Academy on Friday night.
The Paladins led by 14 midway through the third quarter before Athens trimmed the lead to eight with three minutes left. The Eagles got the ball back and scored another touchdown in 50 seconds, but freshman Sean Flannigan defended the two-point conversion pass to give Pinecrest the 28-26 victory.
"We really were in control of the game for much of it," Pinecrest coach Todd Winter said. "We stopped them and they came back and Sean Flannigan did a nice job for us."
Ryan McCarthy led Pinecrest (5-3, 2-2 Region 8-A) with 206 passing yards on five completions and 66 rushing yards on 12 carries. The freshman quarterback got things started with a 77-yard touchdown pass to Logan Hamilton (2 catches, 115 yards) and added touchdown runs of 3, 2 and 5 yards.
"Ryan has just gotten better and better every week," Winter said. "We were getting those safeties up in the box and they had nine up there. One of our goals was to throw the ball a little bit more and Logan Hamilton had a great week of practice and had a big double-move catch. But, I’ve got to give credit where credit is due – our O-line is getting better at pass protection. We’ve become a much more effective offense."
The Pinecrest defense shined on third down, holding the Eagles 1-for-9 and forced two turnovers in the game.
The Paladins will travel to Prince Avenue Christian next Friday for their final away game before finishing the regular season at home against Commerce.
"This puts us back in the playoff hunt," Winter said. "If we can win the next two, we can definitely make it. If we win one, it’ll be close. I think we’re probably going to be in 18 or 17 [in the MaxPreps rankings] after this."