Pinecrest Academy ran the ball early and often to knock off Mount Vernon Presbyterian Academy 21-8 on Friday night at home
"Number one, we had to run the triple option," Pinecrest Academy head coach Todd Winter said. "We were able to run that enough tonight to keep them off balance. We ran the ball effectively, and the defense played real well."
Senior fullback Andrew Wilborn was a workhorse for the Paladins (2-1), finishing the game with 38 carries for 208 yards.
He set the school record for rushing yards in a single game, breaking Jimmy Strom’s 201-yard performance against the Mustangs from a year ago.
"Andrew was just relentless," Winter said. "He’s a workhorse, bottom line."
But Wilborn was the first one to credit his teammates for his success.
"We were just doing our jobs every play," Wilborn said. "The o-line was pushing them back five yards every time, so I could easily get five yards."
Pinecrest ran the ball on every play of their opening drive, which ended in a 2-yard touchdown for sophomore quarterback Jake Mangan.
"The 3-4 defense was an odd front," coach Winter said. "We basically called the exact same play all the way down the field except for one."
Mangan left the game with a possible broken collarbone in the first half, but freshman Ryan McCarthy was able to come in and pick up the slack.
On Mount Vernon’s ensuing drive, their quarterback, Samuel Harris, ran the option and seemingly pitched the ball to nobody, and Pinecrest’s Logan Hamilton was able to recover it in the end zone to give them a quick 14-0 lead.
The Paladins leaned heavily on their running game on Friday night, tallying 300 yards on the ground, while the defense held Mount Vernon to just 103 on the ground.
"Coach Lialios did a real nice job with the defense tonight," Winter said. "We’ve been in the process of turning the defense over to him. He did a great job of preparing the defense this week. I thought they played extremely well, even with a couple short fields."
Turnovers by Pinecrest were what gave the Mustangs those short fields, and what ultimately gave Mount Vernon a chance to stay in this ballgame. Pinecrest turned the ball over four times, including two interceptions and two fumbles. But coach Lialios was able to keep his defense focused.
"The key tonight was discipline," Lialios said. "Our outside backers, our dogs, kept outside containment for the most part, but we really did well inside. Our mike linebacker, he’s a leader out there, you saw him. He’s a commander on the field."
The mike linebacker he was referring to was sophomore Matt Walters. Walters was a beast defensively, tallying eight solo tackles, and he was in on countless others. And the defense, as a whole, kept Mount Vernon from doing what they wanted to offensively.
"I’m just dangling the strings," Lialios said with a smile. "[The players] are the ones doing it. They’re staying at home, they’re doing their responsibilities."
Mount Vernon running back, Jibri Hicks, was one of the few bright spots for the Mustangs, finishing the game with 76 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
But the story of tonight’s game was definitely the play of Wilborn. And coach Winter couldn’t say enough about his fullback.
"First off he had big shoes to fill," Winter said. "[John-Paul] Metz set the standard for fullback play. If you’re going to play fullback in our offense you better be ready to work and carry the ball."