'Going to the Dance': Patriots Earn Berth With Win Over Bucks
A long shot for a playoff berth a month ago, the Pinecrest football team earned its way in Friday night with a rugged 20-16 victory at Hoke County.
Touchdowns by Travis Scales and Zach Strickland, coupled with a pair of field goals and two extra points by Jackson Maples accounted for the Patriot scoring. The defense did a good job of bottling up Buck star Detrez Newsome except for a 75-yard touchdown burst in the third quarter.
Bouncing back from an 0-2 start in Southeastern Conference play, the Patriots go into the postseason as the fourth seed from the Southeastern Conference. They finished the regular season 5-6 overall and in a three-way tie for third place at 2-3 with Lumberton and Purnell Swett in the league
Following Friday’s games, Patriot coach Chris Metzger participated in a drawing that resulted in Lumberton being awarded the third seed while Purnell Swett got the fifth spot. The pairings for next Friday night’s first-round games are expected to be announced today.
“We’re excited to be going to the dance and anxious to find out where we’re going,” the coach said. “It was a great job by our defense. Offensively we did enough to win. The defense in our conference really brings it.”
Hoke (6-5, 1-4) came into the contest with a playoff spot assured, but smarting from three losses in a row, and without injured quarterback David Walrath. Big plays kept the Bucks in the game.
The first one came late in the first period. With Newsome, the team’s punter always posing a threat to run on fourth down, a short snap went instead to Tyree Mack, who picked up 35 yards to the Patriot five-yard line. Linebacker Julius Steele stopped Newsome for a two-yard loss on second and eight and then collaborated with Frankie Painter on a sack of quarterback Michael Locklear for a six-yard loss. The Bucks had to settle for a 28-yard field goal by Logan Wilson.
The Pats answered quickly. A 46-yard completion from Scales to a wide open Steven Kennedy gave them a first down at the one. On the fifth play of the drive, Scales scored his 14th touchdown of the season. Maples converted, making it 7-3.
On the next series, a tackle of Newsome for a two-yard loss by linebacker Jonah Caliri and two incompletions led to a punt. The Pats got as far as the Buck 24 before a 41-yard field goal by Maples made it 10-3.
An interception by the Patriots’ Nick Lacey, for the only turnover by either side in the game, stopped the next Buck drive. Newsome who rushed for 314 yards on 45 carries against the Pats in last year’s meeting, had only 15 on 13 attempts by halftime. Four of the carries were for losses.
“That’s what the game plan was really — to stop No. 6,” Steele said. “That’s what we were studying all week. We watched the dive, we watched the toss — we watched the fakes. We were prepared on defense for everything they would throw at us.”
Newsome carries helped the home team move into Patriot territory on their first possession of the third period. On third down, a big rush by Luke Fetla led to an incomplete pass and a Buck punt. Backed up to their own three, the Patriots were bailed out by two 15-yard penalties in a row.
On fourth down, Kennedy was roughed while attempting to punt out of the end zone. The face mask of Dwayne Simpson was grabbed on the next play, moving the ball to the 40. Scales then went back to the same waggle route that led to a dropped pass in the end zone by tight end Mike Johnson in the first half. Johnson caught his pass for a 27-yard gain, this time to the Buck 33.
“The first one I was thinking a little too much about staying in bounds and dropped that one,” Johnson said. “I came back and caught the next one.”
Simpson thrashed his way for 19 yards on the next play. Scales converted a fourth and one at the three-yard line before Strickland slid off the block of right tackle Jerod McKenzie for the touchdown. The conversion by Maples made it 17-3 with 11:25 remaining in the game.
In a matter of seconds, the Patriot lead went from quite comfortable to not so much. Operating out of the wildcat formation, Newsome took the first snap after the kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown. The conversion made it 17-10.
The teams traded punts before Maples’ second field goal made it a two-possession game again. But a 23-yard touchdown pass from Locklear to Corey Cannon with 45.9 seconds remaining cut the margin to 20-16. A bad snap on the extra point attempt led to a pass for two points that was intercepted by Painter.
When Lacey came up with the onside kick by Hoke, Scales took a couple of knees and it was over.
The Patriots have now qualified for the playoffs in terms of wins four years in a row, although they missed them a year ago because of the player suspensions from the Union Pines game.
“It feels great,” Johnson, a senior said. “Last year we got in the rumble with Union Pines. We came out and busted our tails and now we’re going to the playoffs.”
Pinecrest 7 3 0 10 — 20
Hoke County 3 0 0 13 — 16
Scoring: (H) Wilson FG 28; (P) Scales 1-run (Maples kick); (P) Maples FG 41; (P) Strickland 3-run (Maples kick); (H) Newsome 75-run (Wilson kick); (P) Maples FG 31; Cannon 24-pass from Locklear (pass failed)
Team stats: First downs – (P) 12 (H) 14; Rushing – (P) 38-117 (H) 36-173; Passing – (P) 7-13, 112 yds. (H) 7-21, 84 yds. td, int.; Penalties – (P) 2-30 (H) 6-55; Fumbles – (P) 2-0 (H) 0-0.
Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (P) Dw. Simpson 7-50, Scales 15-38, Strickland 10-16, Pearson 6-13 (H) Newsome 25-144, Mack 1-35; Passing – (P) Scales 7-13, 112 yds. (H) Locklear 7-21, 84 yds. td., int.; Receiving – (P) Pearson 3-18, Kennedy 1-46, Johnson 1-27, Williams 1-11, Dw. Simpson 1-10 (H) Virgil 2-21, Cannon 1-23, Newsome 1-19.
More like this story