Patriots Win Everywhere But the Scoreboard
On a night featuring many incongruities (pause for the dictionary look-up), a Pinecrest football team that out-first downed undefeated Lumberton 16 to five and outgained its opponent by almost three to one was defeated 14-10.
At about the same time the Patriots were making a first down only 19 yards away from scoring a touchdown that would have upset the undefeated Pirates, just 30 miles to the north in Hoke County people were already celebrating that school’s first victory over No. 2 ranked Richmond Senior in 35 years.
Earlier in Lumberton, a huge rainbow was followed shortly before the weather-delayed kickoff by a spectacular display of lightning in the west as a bright sliver of the moon shone in the east. It was all kind of spooky and so was the way the football game played out.
“I give them credit,” Pirate coach Mike Brill said of a Patriot squad that battled back from an almost instant 14-0 deficit in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams. “They made some adjustments and we didn’t make the right adjustments. They literally kicked our butt.”
As if super-charged by the electricity in the atmosphere, the Pirates scored all of their points on homecoming night in the first three minutes of the game.
On the first series, punter Steven Kennedy was unable to get off his kick after trying to field a bouncing snap and the Pirates took over at the Patriot 23-yard line. On the second play, Daniel Robinson scored on a 13-yard sweep.
A disastrous start for the Patriots continued when quarterback Travis Scales fumbled the ball on the first play after the next kickoff and it was recovered by Dorian Davis at the eight-yard line. Another second-down sweep for the touchdown, this time by Zhrome Carmichael, and the second conversion by Conner Haskins, made it 14-0.
“We saw some things on film during the week,” Brill said. “We wanted to kickoff, we wanted to hold them and we wanted to block their punt. That worked like a charm and then we just kind of quit. I can’t explain it until we look at the film.”
The Pirates were on the move and into Patriot territory again with a first down the next time they had the ball. On a third and seven yards to go at the visitors’ 42, Pinecrest linebacker Frankie Painter shot a gap and turned the sweep by Trevor Lewis into a three-yard loss, forcing a punt.
The Pirates would not make another first down until the fourth quarter, and just two more in the game. They were forced to punt on each of their final seven possessions.
“We chalked the first quarter up to poor communication and bad field position,” Patriot nose tackle Luke Fetla said. “The rest of the game we were able to shut them down because they weren’t able to get excited about their field position. Also, we learned what they were doing and were able to adjust and fly around a little bit.”
The Patriot offense penetrated Pirate territory for the first time with an impressive drive that began from its own 11 midway through the second period.
Bursts of nine and 13 yards by Zach Strickland got it going. Six carries in a row by Scales gave the Pats a first-and-goal at the two. His next carry got it inside the one before movement on the offensive line drew a five-yard penalty.
The seventh and eighth carries by Scales produced no gain and the Patriots had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Jackson Maples that made it 14-3.
It was the third time this season, all in losses, that the Patriots failed to score a touchdown after getting the ball to the one-yard line.
“We had a pretty costly penalty,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger said. “It was a tough deal. We have to work on the mentals.”
Lumberton ran only 17 plays from scrimmage in the second half. Fourteen of them were for gains of two yards or less.
The first time the Patriots got the ball after the intermission, Strickland and Tavis Pearson did most of the heavy duty work on a 55-yard drive that ended with a six-yard touchdown run by Strickland. Maples’ conversion with 5:24 remaining in the third period made it 14-10.
The teams exchanged punts for the next half hour until a fair catch by Josiah Smith gave the Pats a start at their own 41 with 2:18 left in the game. A 20-yard gain by Strickland on the second play moved the ball to the Pirate 34. On fourth and eight with 45.4 seconds remaining, Joe White made a clutch catch on a good throw by Scales for 14 yards and got out of bounds at the 19.
The offense looked out of sync on a frustrating final four plays that included a holding penalty and a game-ending interception by Davis.
“That’s five games in a row that have come down to the last play — five games in a row we’ve been lucky,” Brill said. “Defensively we’re pretty good — we’re pretty stout. Offensively, I don’t know what’s not clicking.
“I give credit to Chris (Metzger) and those guys. They didn’t quit and they easily could have. They’ve shot themselves in the foot and that’s the reason they’ve lost. They were better than us tonight.”
Strickland led the Patriots with 83 yards on 13 carries. Pearson gained 57 on nine attempts. Scales completed 10 of 22 passes for 79 yards, including five to White for 43. The Pats outgained their opponent 182 to 86 on the ground and had a 261 to 94 edge in total offense.
The No. 9 ranked Pirates committed no turnovers. Turnovers have played a major role in all four losses for the now 3-4 Patriots. Next Friday, they travel to 6-0 Scotland County, 42-26 winners over Purnell Swett Friday.
“The kids did a nice job battling,” Metzger said. “We’ve got to find a way.”
Pinecrest 0 3 7 0 — 10
Lumberton 14 0 0 0 — 14
Scoring: (L) D. Robinson 13-run (Haskins kick); (L) Z. Carmichael 9-run (Haskins kick); (P) Maples 21 FG; (P) Strickland 6-run (Maples kick)
Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (P) Strickland 13-83, Pearson 9-57, Scales 23-46 (L) Z. Carmichael 12-33, Robinson 4-33; Passing – (P)Scales 10-20, 79 yds., int. (L) Strothers 2-4. 8 yds.; Receiving – (P) White 5-43, Williams 3-19.
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