Patriot Upset Bid Falls Short
It was just what a Pinecrest team struggling mightily to qualify for the playoffs needed — a reminder that in football, the pylon is the same thing as the end zone.
With five minutes remaining in Friday night’s game, the Patriots were on seventh-ranked Richmond Senior’s 11-yard line, driving for a go-ahead touchdown. Joe White caught a short pass from quarterback Travis Scales and headed for pay dirt.
As he was hit near the five-yard line the ball came loose. It appeared headed out of bounds, a good outcome for the home side, but instead struck the pylon for a touchback.
Mistake prone in the red zone all season, one final drive ended in a pass interception by the Raider hero of the evening, Steve Houston, at the one-yard line.
The 12-7 loss on senior night puts the Patriots (4-6, 1-3) in the position of needing a win at Hoke County next Friday to have a chance to become some high seed’s worst nightmare in the playoffs. The Raiders (8-1, 3-1) opened league play with a loss to a Hoke County squad (6-4, 1-3) that has dropped its last three games. Now after three squeakers in a row, they can grab the Southeastern Conference title next week with a win at undefeated Scotland County.
“It’s a great league and there are a lot of similarities between it and the SEC in the college ranks,” Raider coach Paul Hoggard said afterward. “It’s a very physical league — a very tough league that upholds that tradition.
“Somehow or another, in the last three weeks, we’ve found a way to win. I guess the fans have gotten their money’s worth. Pinecrest played hard like I knew they would.”
Playing conservatively on offense, the Patriots remained in contention because of a defense that stopped the Raiders three times in the red zone in the game.
“The defense played real well for us,” Scales said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have been in that position to score.”
The defense made its first stand on the last play of the first quarter. That’s when the Raiders’ Ridge Sato was stopped at the Patriot six-yard line, inches short of a first down. A short time later, Houston set up the game’s initial score with a 30-yard punt return. On the first play from scrimmage, he ran 22 yards for a touchdown. The extra point attempt was wide, making it 6-0.
With only two first downs, and out-gained 195 yards to 36, the Patriots were still very much in the game, trailing 6-0 at halftime.
“It’s our bend, but don’t break philosophy,” Patriot defensive coordinator Jason Sparks said. “We tell the kids they (opponent) can get as many yards as they want between the 20s, but inside that red zone we have to really make a stand. We’ve got kids really making big plays when it counts.”
On the opening series of the third period, the Raiders were turned away again on fourth down at the Patriot 10. Showing absolutely no sign to that point of being able to manufacture a long drive, the Patriots went 90 yards to take the lead.
An inspiring tackle-breaking 26-yard run by Dwayne Simpson got the ball to midfield. Two plays later, Tavis Pearson turned a short pass from Scales into a 29-yard pickup to the Raider 10.
A rare assisting the ball carrier penalty on the Pats, as Scales and his mates moved the pile into the end zone, set them back to the seven. But on third down from the seven, Zach Strickland took a pass from Scales and slid by the right pylon into the end zone. The conversion by Jackson Maples made it 7-6 with 2:06 remaining in the third quarter.
The Raiders then executed what was really their only scoring drive of the contest. A 28-yard run by Houston was the big gainer in the 65 yards in six plays trip that Sato consummated with a seven-yard touchdown run. It stayed at 12-7 when the run for two points failed.
The Patriots then went three and out. The punt by Steven Kennedy was inadvertently shortened by a touch from a teammate, giving the Raiders a start from the home 44. The defense held again, this time at the 19.
Scales and the Patriot offense played like it was possessed the last two times it had the ball.
“It was the O-line,” Scales said of the second-half resurgence.
After a seven yard loss on a failed pitch play set them back to the 12, a 38-yard completion to White moved the ball to midfield. Scales had a 33-yard pickup to the 15, leading up to the ill-fated fumble that struck the pylon.
But the defense forced a punt and the Patriots got the ball back one more time at their own 33 with 2:45 remaining in the game. Scales bulled his way for 27 yards to the Raider 27. A 15-yard penalty for a personal foul moved it to the 14.
Kennedy, who caught the pass in the final minute that beat Purnell Swett last week, had Scales’ pass go through his hands into those of Houston, who returned the ball from the one to near midfield.
With a win at Hoke, the Patriots can still meet the goal they set for the last three games of the regular season.
“A victory at Hoke gets us in the playoffs,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger said. “The kids are fighting. We’ve got to hold our heads up and win the next game.”
Scales completed 7 of 16 for passes for 100 yards and rushed for 103 yards on 15 carries. The big night for Houston included 148 yards on 26 carries.
Richmond 0 6 6 0 — 12
Pinecrest 0 0 7 0 — 7
Scoring: (RS) Houston 22-run (kick failed); (PC) Strickland 7-pass from Scales (Maples kick); Sato 7-run (run failed).
Team stats: First downs (RS) 22 (PC) 12; Rushing – (RS) 53-331 (PC) 31-145; Passing – (RS) 6-14, 47 yds. (PC) 7-16, 100 yds., td., int.; Penalties – (RS) 4-35 (PC) 5-35; Fumbles – (RS) 1-0 (PC) 3-1Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (RS) Houston 26-148, Sato 15-91, Flowers 10-61 (PC) Scales 15-103, D.W. Simpson 7-35, Strickland 5-7; Passing – (RS) Flowers 6-14, 47 yds. (P) Scales 7-16, 100 yds., Td., int.; receiving – (RS) Bostick 2-22, Nichols 2-14 (PC) White 3-52, Pearson 2-34, Strickland 1-7, Dw. Simpson 1-7.
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