History: Pats Run Past Hoke, School Wins Record
One week after giving up 69 points to Richmond, Pinecrest's defense redeemed itself, and the Patriots made history.
Pinecrest forced six Hoke turnovers and kept the homestanding Bucks off the scoreboard throughout much of the first three quarters on its way to a 31-14 win Friday night. The Patriots close the regular season with a 9-2 record, including 3-2 in Southeastern Conference play.
The nine wins breaks the school record for wins set when the 1987 team won in the first round of the playoffs for the only time in the 40-year history of the school.
"The kids believed in each other and worked real hard, and we're just excited for them and excited we could come away with a victory against a really talented team," said Pinecrest head coach Chris Metzger.
But despite posting the best regular season in school history, the Patriots' playoff fate came down to the luck of a draw, as Pinecrest's win coupled with Purnell Swett's 32-30 victory over Lumberton caused the three teams to finish tied for second place in the Southeastern Conference standings with 3-2 league marks behind conference champion Richmond.
With each of the three teams having lost to Richmond in addition to Pinecrest beating Swett, Swett beating Lumberton and Lumberton beating Pinecrest, the tie could not be broken through head-to-head competition. Thus late Friday night, the three head coaches met and drew straws for conference standings and playoff seeding.
Pinecrest drew the long straw and will the be the second seed from the Southeastern Conference in the 4AA playoffs behind Richmond, with Lumberton taking the third seed and Swett the fourth seed. The playoff brackets were scheduled to be released by the North Carolina Athletic Association Saturday evening. See thepilot.com for details.
A glorious ending to the regular season did not begin nearly as well for the Patriots. Hoke (2-9, 1-4) moved the ball at will between the 20-yard lines and drove deep into Pinecrest territory on its first four offensive possessions, while Pinecrest could only muster a Jeremy Brock field goal with two lost fumbles and a punt blocked on its first five offensive possessions.
Needing a spark to get going, the defense stepped up for the Patriots. Darion Hailey ended a promising first drive for Hoke with an interception in the end zone, and after a Brett Toomer fumble gave the Bucks the ball back at the Pinecrest 40-yard line, Travis Scales sacked Hoke quarterback Vernon Brandon on a third-down play to set up an incomplete fourth-down pass to end Hoke's second offensive possession.
KIcking in place of the injured Dillon Maples, Brock broke Pinecrest onto the scoreboard with a 32-yard field goal with 36 seconds remaining in the first quarter to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead.
After a 15-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, Hoke drove 67 yards in 11 plays to the Pinecrest 1-yard line. A Brandon touchdown run on second-and-goal was called back for holding, and after an incomplete pass, the senior quarterback threw his second interception of the game, this time to Scales.
The Patriot offense could do little with the turnaround and went three-and-out, and on fourth down from the Pinecrest 26-yard line, James Baldwin's punt was blocked by Hoke's Demoine Rouse, which gave the Bucks starting field position at the Pinecrest 12-yard line.
Hoke went backwards from there and was forced to attempt a 30-yard field goal which was no good with 5:20 remaining in the first half.
The two teams traded punts before Pinecrest's Raphael Alston fumbled a ball that was recovered by Hoke's Keshawn McLean at the Patriot 46-yard line. Pinecrest would fumble six times in the game, losing four.
The ensuing drive ended when Brandon was intercepted for the third time in the first half, this time by Jyhe Utley, who returned the ball 45 yards to the Hoke 26-yard line.
In double coverage, Baldwin pulled down a 22-yard pass from Pinecrest quarterback Ben Williams on third-and-eight, and one play later, Damion Pride scored the first touchdown of the game on a 2-yard run with 1:13 remaining in the first half. With Brock's extra point, the Patriots took a 10-0 lead into halftime despite being outgained in terms of offensive yardage 146-127.
It didn't take Pinecrest long to add to its lead after halftime. Toomer returned the second-half kickoff 63 yards to the Hoke 28-yard line, which set up a 14-yard Pride touchdown run three plays later that extended the lead to 17-0.
On the ensuing kickoff, Scales recovered a Buck fumble at the Hoke 28-yard line. That set up a 37-yard Brock field goal attempt, but the low kick was blocked. Brandon picked the ball up and returned it 85 yards to the end zone, but the return was brought back due to holding.
Nevertheless, the momentum stayed on Hoke's side. The Bucks finally broke onto the scoreboard with a 2-yard Brandon touchdown run to cap a 16-play, 89-yard drive that shaved nearly eight minutes off the clock.
After a Pride fumble recovered by Eric Wolff gave Hoke the ball back, Brandon scored again from 2 yards out to cut the Pinecrest lead to 17-14 with 10:10 to play in the fourth quarter.
Amazingly, Pinecrest got the ball back and promptly fumbled again. But this time, Hoke fumbled the ball right back on the next play when backup running back Deonnonti McLean was stripped by a Patriot defender.
The ball bounced right into the hands of Pinecrest linebacker Jykeal McCrimmon, who returned it 38 yards for a touchdown to extend the Pinecrest lead to 24-14 with 7:14 remaining.
Toomer capped the scoring with a 7-yard touchdown run with 2:54 to play.
McCrimmon had a sack to go along with his fumble recovery, while Scales notched two sacks and two interceptions. Hailey also had two interceptions, as Brandon threw four picks while completing 19 of 35 passes for 191 yards.
Hoke outgained Pinecrest 278-238 offensively and had 15 first downs as compared to 10 for the Patriots, but Pinecrest had a decided advantage in the running game. The Patriots outrushed Hoke 202-87. Toomer led the way with 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries, while Alston had 67 yards on 11 carries and Pride 65 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries.
Williams threw only one pass in the second half and finished 2 of 8 for 36 yards.
Wolff caught 12 passes for 147 yards for Hoke.
Contact Patrick Love at (910) 693-2477 or by e-mail at email@example.com
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