Patriots Roll Past Western Harnett in Football
Pinecrest coach Chris Metzger was not in a particularly celebratory mood in the aftermath of his team’s 41-14 victory over Western Harnett Friday night.
Over 100 yards in penalties, and some special team breakdowns, marred the positive outcome in an odd football game that was scoreless until the final two minutes of the first half. Starting with next Friday’s game at New Hanover (3-1), the Patriots (3-2) meet six teams that boast a combined record of 25-4 .
“We’ve got to beat a team people say we shouldn’t and that’s our mantra,” the coach said before heading into the locker room to address his team. “We have to minimize our mistakes like the penalties.”
Juniors Zach Strickland and Dwayne Simpson each scored a pair of touchdowns after the Patriots were out-played by the Eagles (1-4) for most of the first half. Quarterback Travis Scales rushed for 101 yards on 10 attempts, including a 44-yard touchdown run.
The Patriot defense held the visitors to a net offense of 29 yards in the second half, including just 19 on 21 rushing attempts.
Early on, the Eagles looked like the better team. Midway through the second period, they drove from their own 33 to the Patriot 18. One of their first downs along the way came on consecutive jumps off side on fourth downs.
An interception and a 10-yard return by cornerback Josiah Smith gave the Patriot offense the ball at its own 27 with 5:49 remaining in the first half.
“It was a big play,” Smith said, “but I try to make big plays all the time. It gave the offense a chance to put some points on the board.”
The Patriots had only two first downs to eight for the Eagles at that point.
“You can put that on me,” Scales said. “It was mainly me. I had to get into the tempo of the game.”
A 23-yard scamper by Simpson got the first scoring drive of the game going. On the ninth play, Strickland took it in from 14 yards out with 2:02 remaining for the first varsity touchdown of his career. After an errant snap on the conversion attempt, the score remained 6-0.
“It felt amazing, it was the best feeling I’ve ever had,” Strickland said of the personal milestone. “It was just great blocking. Everything came together perfectly.”
The lead lasted for the 14 seconds it took the Eagles’ Montreze Booker to return the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. The conversion by Eddy Garcia made it 7-6. The wildness continued. D.J. Simpson returned the ensuing kickoff to the Eagle 44, setting up the 44-yard scoring jaunt by Scales on the first play. Simpson ran for the two points and it was 14-7, going into the halftime intermission.
While the Eagle ground game was being stopped cold, the Patriot offense scored touchdowns on four of its first five second-half possessions.
“They had some big running backs,” Smith said of the Eagles. “We had to come out more aggressively and put our hearts into it.”
The Eagle slide continued when a high snap on a punt attempt gave the Patriots the ball on the visitors’ 18-yard line on the opening series of the third period. On the second play, Strickland scored from the 11.
The next time the Pats had the ball, more than half of a 73-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Simpson was taken away by an illegal block. But the Pats still managed to cash that opportunity in when Joe White received a short pass and broke several tackles on a 24-yard scoring play. The conversion by Jackson Maples made it 28-7.
A brilliant 65-yard interception return by Booker set up a two-yard touchdown run by the Eagles’ Jordan Trapp, closing the gap to 28-14. In the fourth period, another long kickoff return by D.J. Simpson, and touchdown runs of 16 yards by Dwayne Simpson and seven yards by back-up quarterback Aaron Reimer, doused any Eagle hopes of a comeback.
“I think the kids did a good job, it was a team effort,” Metzger said. “We cut down on the turnovers, but we’ve got to play cleaner.”
Extra points: The Patriots rushed for 280 yards and produced a total offense of 337 while holding the Eagles to 112 rushing and 167 overall. Half of the Eagles’ second-half rushing attempts went for negative yardage.
Patriots earning credit for tackles for losses included Julius Steele, D.J. Simpson, Dee Kirkpatrick (sack), Reco Cain, Greg Mello and Luke Fetla. Mello and Frankie Painter knocked down pass attempts on consecutive plays in the first quarter before D.J. Simpson blocked a field goal attempt.
Ranked at No. 13 in one of the 4-A polls, New Hanover was idle this week. The Wildcats’ only loss was 49-28 to Scotland in week two. All six of the Southeastern Conference teams won on Friday.
Western Harnett 0 7 7 0 — 14
Pinecrest 0 14 14 13 — 41
Scoring: (P) Strickland 14-run (kick failed); (W) Booker 87-kickoff return (Garcia kick); (P) Scales 44-run (Dwayne Simpson run); (P) Strickland 11-run (Maples kick); (P) White 24-pass from Scales (Maples kick); (W) Trapp 2-run (Garcia kick); (P) Dwayne Simpson 16-run (Maples kick); (P) Reimer 7-run (kick failed).
Team stats: First downs - (P) 16 (W) 12; Rushing – (P) 32-280 (W ) 40-112; Passing – (P) 4-8, 57-yds, td, int. (W) 6-17, 54 yds., int.; Penalties – (P) 13-110 (W) 9-65; Fumbles – (P) 3-1 (W) 1-0; Individual stat leaders: Rushing – (P) Scales 10-101, Dw. Simpson 6-82, Strickland 5-54 (W) Trapp 12-49, Freeman 10-36, Gilchrist 5-31; Passing – (P) Scales 4-8, 57 yds. td., int. (W) McNeil 6-17, 54-yds., int.; Receiving – (P) White 2-37 (W) Hobbs 3-40.
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