Late Surge Propels Cougars Past Patriots
Extra Points: Break Bread, Then Intense 48 Minutes
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A pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Barron Collier’s Matt Gerhardstein, coupled with four second-half turnovers by Pinecrest, gave the Florida team a 27-15 victory in Friday night’s battle between the states.
The homestanding Patriots (2-2) had a chance to steal a win in spite of their looseness with the ball when Cougar quarterback Justin Black was called for intentional grounding after throwing a pass from out of the end zone with just over 10 minutes left in the game. That gave them two points for a safety and a 15-14 lead.
Held in check for most of three quarters by the Patriot defense, the Cougar running attack got it done with the scoring plays of 34 and 24 yards by Gerhardstein, who also grabbed a touchdown pass from Black in the second quarter.
The squad from Naples, Fla., (2-0) survived 16 penalties for 149 yards, but turned the ball over only once. In their locker room afterward, the Patriot players and coaches had to be wondering what happened on a night that began with a 56-yard kickoff return by Dee Kirkpatrick and saw them take a 13-0 second quarter lead.
“Obviously, there were the turnovers, but there was a reason,” Patriot coach Chris Metzger said. “They’re a pretty big and physical team. That’s a seasoned ball club and 48 minutes is what they do in all three phases. We just have to do a better job with ball security.”
A sneak from the one by Patriot quarterback Travis Scales, and the extra point conversion by Jackson Maples, made it 7-0 with 10 minutes left in the first half. On the first play after a Cougar punt on the next series, Scales connected with an all-alone Traivon Williams on a scoring play that covered 45 yards, making it 13-0.
“We weren’t discouraged,” Gerhardstein said. “We knew we’d come back. We’re a fourth-quarter team and we trained for that all summer.”
Things got worse for the visitors before they got better. The Patriot defense held Isaac Fuller, who had rushed for over 200 yards in last week’s Cougar win over Miami Braddock, to six yards on three carries on the next series.
The Patriots were in a position to get the ball back in good field position and go for more. But, struggling for extra yards after receiving the Cougar punt, D.J. Simpson fumbled the ball and the visitors recovered at the Patriot 35.
On a fourth and goal from the two, Black threw to Gerhardstein for the touchdown. The conversion by Juan Tamayo made it 13-7.
Black, who completed 15 of 21 passes for 195 yards in the game, was four-of-four for 57 yards through the air on a scoring drive of 61 yards to start the second half that gave the Cougars a 14-13 lead. Scales then mixed the run and pass on an 11-play drive that ended in a 40-yard field goal attempt by Maples that was blocked after a low snap.
Moments later the Patriot offense was back in business when D.J. Simpson atoned for his earlier fumble by intercepting a pass by Black and returning it to the Cougar 34. A touchdown pass from Scales to Steven Kennedy was negated by a holding call. But on the next play, he connected with Kennedy again on a pass and run that took it to the four.
A play later, Scales appeared to have snuck in from the one, but the ball was spotted inside a foot away. Struggling to get in on his next attempt, he fumbled and the Cougars took over at the one, leading up to the safety and a 15-14 Patriot lead.
Mixed in with the two touchdown runs by Gerhardstein were two interceptions and a fumble in the next three Patriot possessions.
Had the Patriots held on to their early fourth-quarter lead and won the game, Metzger’s reaction might have been similar to that of his close friend in Collier coach Mark Ivey. The Cougars made plenty of mistakes on their own, including the slew of penalties and the play that led to the safety.
“Obviously there are a lot of things to iron out,” Ivey said. “If we can play fairly sloppily, as far as the penalties against a team like Pinecrest and still come away with a victory — if we can clean that up ... .”
Both defenses did a good job stopping the run against opponents that rushed for over 400 yards the previous week. The Cougars rushed for 150 yards on 34 attempts compared to 157 on 37 tries by the Pats. Fuller was held to just 29 yards on 11 carries. Scales led the Patriots with 70 on 25 attempts and Dwayne Simpson picked up 59 on three carries.
If the Patriot players and coaches needed any further motivation for a strong response against Western Harnett in next week’s home game, they got it listening to the celebrating by the Collier players in an adjacent locker room.
“You don’t have time to sulk on this because Western Harnett wants you bad,” Metzger told his players. “Turn this pain into victory.”
Barron Collier 0 7 7 13 — 27
Pinecrest 0 13 0 2 — 15
Scoring: (P) Scales 1-run (Maples kick); (P) Williams 45-pass from Scales (kick blocked); (C) Gerhardstein 2-pass from Black (Tamayo kick); ( C) Black 1-run; (P) safety (intentional grounding – end zone); ( C) Gerhardstein 34-run (pass failed); ( C) Gerhardstein 24-run (Tamayo kick).
Team stats: First downs – (P) 14 ( C) 15; Rushing – (P) 38-157 ( C) 34-150; Passing – (P) 6-15, 115 yds., TD, 3 int. ( C) 15-21, 195 yds. TD, int.; Fumbles – (P) 3-3 ( C) 0-0; Penalties - (P) 8-52 (C) 16-149; Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (P) Scales 25-70, Dw. Simpson 3-56, Strickland 9-31 (C) Gerhardstein 10-54, Black 11-49, Fuller 11-29; Passing – (P) Scales 6-15, 115 yds. TD, 3 int. ( C) Black 15-21, 195 yds. TD, int.; Receiving – (P) Williams 2-53, White 2-31, Kennedy 1-21 ( C) Heuerman 3-57, Keating 4-55, Fuller 2-25.
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