Comeback Patriots Win Again in Jayvee Action
The Pinecrest junior varsity football team walked a tightrope for the third week in a row Thursday before defeating Cox Mill 14-8 on a final minute touchdown pass from Michael Jacobs to Troy Roper.
A Patriot offense that struggled most of the evening shook off a fumble inside the Charger one-yard line with six minutes remaining before making good on its final opportunity.
Trailing 8-6, the defense forced a punt. Roper made a fair catch at the Charger 37 at the 3:58 mark. With 1:30 remaining, Jacobs converted a fourth and four for a first down at the 15.
On third and six from the 11, the quarterback rolled to his left and completed a pass to Roper at about the two-yard line. The sophomore endured a big hit before fighting his way to the goal line for the touchdown.
The conversion run by Chance Castillo completed the scoring on the undefeated Patriots’ third comeback win in a row. Linebackers Tristan Mullins and Ryan Brooks each recovered two fumbles as the Patriot defense more than held up its end of the bargain.
The Patriots came from two touchdowns behind in the fourth quarter to win their first two games against Jack Britt and Overhills. The Britt game was decided by a Joe Lewis field goal in the fifth overtime (35-32). A two-point conversion run by Castillo was the difference in the uphill battle against Overhills (21-20).
“It’s a lot more fun,” tight end Thomas Lehto said of the weekly theatrics the team has been providing, “but I’d rather go out ahead from the beginning. But it gives our fan base a good show.”
Charger quarterback Darian Arnold directed a 78-yard drive that ended in a five-yard touchdown run by Andrew Watt with 8:47 remaining in the second period. The run for two points made it 8-0.
The Patriot offense ran only 12 plays from scrimmage in the first half as the Chargers, led by the hard-running Watt, were better able to move the stakes.
“As short and stocky as he is, you just have to hit him hard,” Mullins said of Watt. “If you don’t hit him hard, he’s not going down.”
The Patriots started from the Charger 49 after a short second-half kickoff. On the second play, Castillo shed would-be tacklers on the way to a 17-yard gain. Chris Collins then burst free off the left side for 29 yards and a touchdown. It remained 8-6 when a conversion pass fell incomplete.
Patriot coach Ben Hammer credited blocks by Lehto with making room for the running backs throughout the game.
“I was just having fun hitting people,” the 6-foot-5, 185-pound tight end said. “That’s what I do. That’s why I like to play this game. When you open holes for a Troy Roper, Chance Castillo and Chris Collins, there are going to be big yards.”
The Chargers fumbled the ball away on three of their five second-half possessions. But when Jacobs lost the ball inside the one midway through the fourth period, it looked like the Patriots might be running out of chances.
“I was a little worried,” Roper said. “We had a few errors, but we never gave up.”
Starting from the shadow of their end zone, the Chargers had a third and five from the six-yard line when nose guard Cody Bender sacked the quarterback for a three-yard loss. The punt and fair catch by Roper was followed by the nine-play drive culminating in the touchdown pass from Jacobs.
“When I caught the pass from Michael, I didn’t think about scoring myself,” Roper said. “I just thought about putting my team ahead so we could end the day with a win.”
Brooks recovered a fumble on the ensuing kickoff to wrap things up.
“I think we came out the last few games with our heads not on straight, losing balls, not making plays we should,” he said. “Just like the offense has to have the defense’s back, sometimes the defense has to have the offense’s back. We seem to pull it together after halftime.”
Not including the points scored in the overtimes of the Jack Britt game, the Patriots have outscored their three opponents 49-6 in the second half.
Castillo was the Patriots’ leading rusher against the Chargers with 76 yards on seven carries. Collins picked up 66 on five attempts. Jacobs ran for 27 yards on nine tries and completed three of seven passes for 39.
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