Will Pinecrest Bounce Back?
The Pinecrest football team is likely to face an aerial bombardment when it travels to Hoke County for tonight's regular season finale.
A lot will be on the line for the Patriots (8-2, 2-2) as they try to slow down Buck quarterback Vernon Brandon and his corps of receivers. A win would likely mean a home playoff game next week for the first time in the 40-year history of Pinecrest's football program.
Nine wins would also be a milestone for a Patriot squad trying to bounce back from last week's 69-35 loss to Richmond Senior. The Patriots led 35-34 in the third quarter before the defending state champion scored 35 unanswered points.
"We have an opportunity to show people we can bounce back, and that's really critical," Patriot coach Chris Metzger said at the end of Wednesday's practice. "The kids understand that, and we just want to continue to dig and get the best out of them. They're awesome kids, we believe in them and we love them, and we want them never to get satisfied."
Hoke (2-8, 1-3) has allowed over 40 points per game while scoring at a 28 per game clip. Brandon has completed 154 of 304 passes for 2,430 yards and 24 touchdowns. In an early season victory over Seventy-First, he completed 24 of 43 passes for 402 yards and three touchdowns. His main target, Eric Wolff, has 67 catches for over 1,063 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Patriot defense has shown a vulnerability to the pass of late, giving up more than 200 yards through the air in each of its last two games.
"Hoke has arguably the most electric quarterback in the entire state," Metzger said. "They basically have five linemen and six guys that can run like the wind. It was third and 45 yards to go in one game and they scored a 56-yard touchdown."
A strong pass rush and wet weather slowed the Buck quarterback down last year when the Patriots escaped with a 7-0 home victory on their homecoming night. That was their first victory over the Bucks since 1996.
Patriot wide receiver James Baldwin caught 11 passes for 193 yards in a 48-7 loss to the Bucks in 2007. He and quarterback Ben Williams hooked up twice for touchdowns against Richmond last week. Baldwin's season totals include 38 catches for 548 yards and seven touchdowns.
Look for the Patriots to try to keep the Buck aerial circus off the field by controlling the ball on the ground. Raphael Alston, who scored three touchdowns against Richmond, is the leading Patriot rusher with 526 yards on 61 carries and six touchdowns.
Also affecting Pinecrest's seeding for the playoffs will be their conference standing. A Patriot win over Hoke and a Purnell Swett win over second-place Lumberton would create a three-way tie for second behind Richmond Senior.
As soon as all the scores are in Friday night, coaches will instantly become bracketologists, trying to get a head start on gaining intelligence about first-round playoff opponents.
The final 32-team 4AA playoff bracket is expected to be released sometime Saturday evening.
Contact Charlie Bergmann at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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