Patriots Top Rams in Thriller
A 40-yard touchdown pass from Travis Scales to Steven Kennedy with 30.1 seconds remaining in the game kept Pinecrest’s playoff hopes alive and put a Patriot homecoming night crowd into a state of delirium.
The Patriots made big plays all around in the final two minutes of the game to snap a three-game losing streak with a 23-20 victory. They take a 4-5 overall and 1-2 record in the Southeastern Conference into next Friday’s home game against Richmond Senior. The Rams dropped to 3-5 and 0-3.
Pinecrest Foootball vs Purnell Swett
Action from the Patriots thrilling 23-20 homecoming victory over Purnell Swett Friday in Southern Pines.The game-winning touchdown came via a 40-yard connection through the air from Travis Scales to Steven Kennedy with 30.1 seconds remaining in the league tilt. Photos by Donna Ford.
The Patriot defense held a Ram passing offense that produced almost 500 total yards in close games against Scotland High and Richmond Senior the previous two weeks to 101 yards, and sacked quarterback Chase Armstrong three times.
“Take this feeling and bottle it because this was an unbelievable team effort,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger told his team in the locker room afterward. “Don’t lose this feeling.”
The visitors were within one or two first downs of salting away a 20-14 victory after a fumble by Scales, attempting to pass on fourth down, ended a Patriot drive at the Ram 31-yard line with 2:35 remaining in the contest.
A clutch sack of Armstrong on third down by the Patriot defense put the Rams in a punting situation. Punter Nakota Locklear took a knee in the end zone for a safety when the snap flew far over his head, making it 20-16.
After D.J. Simpson returned the ensuing free kick 20 yards to the Patriot 47, Scales and the offense had 1:45 left on the clock with no timeouts to work with.
“After that (the fumble) I promised them that if the defense got the ball back, I’d do everything I could to make it happen,” Scales said.
On first down, he was hit and the ball came loose again, but much to the displeasure of the Ram fans, his arm was ruled in motion this time for an incomplete pass. On fourth and three from the Ram 46, he scrambled for a first down at the 40.
Two plays later, on second and 10, the senior drifted to his right with the ball.
“I was either going to run or throw it deep,” Scales said. “I saw Steven out of the corner of my eye. I can always count on him to get open deep. I knew I didn’t overthrow it and I was just hoping it wasn’t short.”
Kennedy caught the ball in stride along the right side of the end zone. The conversion by Jackson Maples gave the home team a 23-20 lead.
“When the ball was in the air, I was just praying,” Kennedy recalled. “It was a perfect pass from Travis. It was unreal. I didn’t feel like I was here.
“When I got to the sideline, I just fell on my knees and prayed to God and said, thank you. Without him, nothing is possible.”
Maples was able to kick the ball away from the dangerous Juwan Jones, who had already scored twice. The Rams now had 23.8 seconds left to travel 64 yards for a touchdown or get in position for a tying field goal.
Three incompletions left them with nine-10ths of a second remaining. Jones took a short pass from Armstrong and scooted his way through the traffic at midfield and now had daylight in front of him. Playing deep, safety D.J. Simpson made about a 25-yard lateral run across the field to knock Jones down with a hard tackle at the Patriot 30.
Simpson, the Patriot leader in tackles this season, had earlier blocked one extra-point attempt and got a hand on another that went wide.
“I was just standing back there waiting for something to happen,” he said. “I had trust in my teammates. For the seniors, this was our last homecoming game and we went out and got the win.”
The Rams had a 14-6 lead, and the ball, late in the second quarter when Patriot cornerback Josiah Smith intercepted an Armstrong pass and returned it 15 yards to the Ram 11. Scales snuck it in from the one for his second touchdown of the game and then ran for the two points, making it 14-14.
A 12-yard touchdown run by Dillon Hunt with 7:50 remaining in the game put the Rams back in front, setting up the fantastic finish.
The Patriots now have the minimum four wins required to qualify for the state playoffs, but they would likely be bumped by the numbers game if they don’t finish in the top three in the conference or finish with a record of .500 or better.
Including Richmond Senior’s 27-22 win over previously undefeated Lumberton, and Scotland High’s surprisingly one-sided 47-0 victory over Hoke County, the league standings are now Scotland 3-0, Richmond and Lumberton 2-1, Pinecrest and Hoke County 1-2, and Swett 0-3.
Purnell Swett 8 6 0 6 — 20
Pinecrest 0 14 0 9 — 23
Scoring: (PS) Juwan Jones 5-run (Travon Clark run); (PC) Travis Scales 1-run (run failed); (PS) Juwan Jones 20-pass from Chase Armstrong (kick blocked); (PC) Scales 1-run (Scales run); (PS) Dillon Hunt 20-run (kick failed); (PC) Steven Kennedy 40-pass from Scales (Maples kick).
Team stats: First downs - (PS) 17 (PC) 14; Rushing –(PS) 38-157 (PC) 38-129; Passing – (PS) 7-16, 101 yds., td., int. (PC) 10-16, 137 yds., td., int.; Penalties – (PS) 4-20 (PC)5-36; Fumbles - (PS) 2-1 (PC) 3-1.
Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (PS) T. Clark 15-71, Hunt 13-54, Juwan Jones 4-38, Armstrong 6-(-6) (PC) Scales 18-53, Pearson 3-38, Strickland 8-28, Dw. Simpson 8-39; Passing – (PS) Armstrong 7-16, 101 yds., td., int. (PC) Scales 10-16, 137 yds., td., int.; Receiving – (PS) Juwan Jones 3-72, Hunt 2-20 (PC) Pearson 4-4-19, Kennedy 3-51, White 2-67.
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