The first Battle of Peachtree Parkway was anticlimactic in more ways than one.
In a game full of penalties, South Forsyth still managed to rattle off big plays and continued to do so after a nearly two hour long lightning delay at halftime to defeat neighboring Pinecrest Academy, 52-0, Friday night at War Eagle Stadium.
Despite the fact both teams were coming off region titles from a season ago there were still obvious competitive differences between the War Eagles (1-1), part of the state’s largest classification, and the Paladins (0-1), a private school with less than 50 players. South converted multiple long third down plays and held Pinecrest’s triple-option offense to just 115 total yards. South led 31-0 at halftime, when Pinecrest head coach Todd Winter was given the opportunity to either elect to end the game or play on.
“Oh yeah we wanted to keep going,” Winter said. “This game, this opportunity to play (South) just makes us a better football program. We don’t have to play anyone like this to be the best and reach our goals, and how many Class 1A schools would come out and start off like this?”
South quarterback Davis Shanley, who played a mile down the road in Pinecrest’s program before transferring to start high school, completed 9 of 18 passes for 234 yards and three touchdowns despite struggling with some errant throws for the second week in a row, while running backs Jake Nicholas (8 carries, 46 yards), Jack Pehrson (6-32) and Jared Honey (4-32) helped South to 152 yards on the ground.
That doesn’t mean the game was without major negatives. After falling 27-14 last week in the Corky Kell Classic the War Eagles were looking to get back on track, but 10 first half penalties weren’t what head coach Jeff Arnette was looking for in the home opener.
“I had to calm down before I went in to speak (at half), quite a bit,” Arnette said. “We don’t need to do that to move the ball.
“Overall though, tonight I thought we played a whole lot better. Everybody was disappointed last week.”
Pinecrest nearly took the early lead on the first throw of the game when Ryan McCarthy stepped in the passing lane of Shanley’s pass and had a clear path to the end zone, but dropped the ball. South adjusted, moved down field, and Shanley found Guy Morra for a 19-yard touchdown. Shanley hit Morra again for a 56-yard score in the second quarter.
After Jared Honey caught a wide open pass on third and long and ran over a defender for a 70-yard score, South went up 16-0 on a safety after Charlie Hale pinned Pinecrest at its own 1-yard line with a 50-yard punt. Morra’s second touchdown catch and a 1-yard touchdown from Pehrson made the score 31-0 at the half.
Backup quarterback Cal Morris added two scores in the second half with a 5-yard touchdown run and a 23-yard pass to Ryan Pontrelli, while Nicholas added a 4-yard touchdown.
Pinecrest’s lone highlight of the night was an interception at midfield by safety Daniel Duke. The Paladins struggled with penalties as well with nine, and they were 0 for 4 passing for the game.
For South the score didn’t quite add up to the performance. Shanley still thinks the War Eagles have plenty of work to do before they face three more difficult non-region opponents in Centennial, South Gwinnett and Lassiter.
“We are going to continue to try and perfect our offense. If we can eliminate our mistakes we can be successful,” Shanley said.
Pinecrest will face Discovery, another Class 7A school, next week at home. The Titans are a first-year program that were under the leadership of Frank Hepler before he moved to Forsyth Central in the offseason.