Pats Improve to 4-0
On a forgettable night for the offense, the Pinecrest football team found other ways to win.
Huge plays made by the defense and special teams carried the undefeated Patriots (4-0) to a 24-11 victory at West Johnston (1-3) on Friday. A 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Raphael Alston helped them stay in contention during a first half in which the offense made only one first down.
Trailing 11-10 late in the third period, Dannie Monroe put the Pats in front for good with a 70-yard interception return. Picks by Marino Gillis and D.J. Simpson helped set up 10 other Patriot points.
Wildcat running back Cam-eron Umphrey was almost unstoppable in the first half, rushing for 60 yards and catching passes from quarterback Justin Carroll for another 86.
"We played a really hungry team and they kind of smacked us in the mouth," Patriot coach Chris Metzger said. "We had to make some adjustments and the kids did a great job at halftime of sticking together."
The 337 return yards by the Patriots in the game did not include a 70-yard runback of a punt following the opening series of the game by Simpson that was negated by off-setting penalties. Later in the first period, a Patriot fumble set up a 22-yard field goal by the Wildcats' Gustavo Gonzalez.
The third kickoff return for a touchdown in as many games by Alston, and the conversion by Jeremy Brock, put the Pats in front 7-3 just 14 seconds later. About midway through the second period, defensive lineman Josh McMillan tipped a Carroll pass and Gillis returned it 65 yards to the visitors' 22-yard line.
"I had the best blockers on defense in front of me and got as far as I could," Gillis said.
After the Patriots made their only first down of the half, the offense stalled. But a 34-yard field goal by Brock made it 10-3.
A safety caused by a ball being snapped into the end zone as the Patriots prepared to punt shaved the margin to 10-5.
Then, just before the half, Umphrey turned a short pass into a 59-yard gain to the Patriot 5-yard line. He broke several tackles as he scored on the next play, making it 11-10 with just 17 seconds remaining.
The Patriots were outgained 197 to 13 in the first half. There was some chewing at each other by members of the Patriot defensive unit as it reviewed what had happened.
"In the first half we weren't playing as a team," inside linebacker David Smith said. "We needed to bond as a team more. Once that happened, we did what we were coached to do. We communicated and got it done."
A promising first offensive series of the third quarter for the visitors ended in the Wildcat red zone on an interception of a Travis Scales' pass by Sean McCleave. The Cats were threatening to add to their lead when Monroe picked off a pass at his own 30 and weaved his way through traffic for the go-ahead touchdown. Scales ran for the two points that made it 18-11.
"I told the boys at halftime, 'I love games like this because this shows between a boy and a man,]" Monroe said. "We talk about adversity every day in practice. I'll always have faith. We always have faith in these boys."
The Patriot defense was putting a lot of pressure on Carroll now. A sack by Kris Robinson set the Cats back 10 yards the next time they had the ball. Two plays later, Smith and James Harrison caught him for a 3-yard loss.
A 27-yard punt return by Monroe led to a missed field goal by Brock. With just under three minutes left in the game, Simpson picked off a Carroll pass and returned it 22 yards to the Wildcat 18. On the first play, Kyle Ocheltree, in the game at quarterback for Scales, scored on a keeper for the final points of the game.
The Patriot defense held the home team to three first downs and 54 net yards in the second half. Averaging 282 yards rushing per game coming in, the Patriots were held to 106 on 26 attempts with 46 of the yards coming on two late carries by Ocheltree.
"I believe the defense held its ground and the offense came on later in the game," Gillis said, summing things up. "We came together as a team in the second half."
The Patriots travel to Western Harnett (0-4) next Friday.
Contact Charlie Berg-mann at email@example.com. com.
Pinecrest 7 3 8 6 24
W. Johnston 3 8 0 0 11
Scoring: (W) Gonzalez 22-field goal; (P) Alston 95-kickoff return (Brock kick); (P) Brock 34-field goal; (W) safety (punt snap out of end zone); (W) Umphrey 5-run (pass failed); (P) Monroe 70-punt return (Scales run); (P) K. Ocheltree 18-run (pass failed)
Team stats: First downs (P) 8 (W) 15; Rushing - (P) 26-106 (W) 30-93; Passing - (P) 4-12, 43 yds., int. (W) 19-34, 158 yds. 3 int.; Penalties - (P) 4-2 (W) 3-0; Penalties - (P) 6-45 (W) 7-55.
Individual stat leaders: Rushing - (P) K.Ocheltree 4-48, Pride 10-37, Scales 6-25 (W) Umphrey 16-70, Sanders 3-18, Carroll 7- (-24); Passing - (P) Scales 4-11, 43 yds., int. (W) Carroll 19-34, 158 yds., int.; Receiving - (P) McPhaul 2-16, K. Ocheltree 1-17, M. Smith 1-10 (W) Umphrey 8-105, D. Williams 4-21
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