Wildcats Defeat Patriots
Building on positives was the theme of the Pinecrest football players and coaches in the aftermath of Friday night’s 42-24 loss to No. 7 ranked New Hanover.
An early 7-0 Patriot lead was quickly turned into a 28-7 deficit at halftime by mistakes coupled with the balanced attack of the Wildcats. Trailing 42-10 late in the third period, the Pats showed some grit on both sides of the ball to finish on a positive note.
The Patriots take a 3-3 record into Friday’s Southeastern Conference opener at home against Lumberton. The Wildcats improved to 5-0.
“Our guys battled the whole time from start to finish,” Patriot defensive coordinator Jason Sparks said. “Sometimes there are teams better than you and you battle to see where you are.”
On another good night overall for Patriot special teams, a 44-yard punt return by Nick Lacy gave the Patriots a first down at the Wildcat 12. The first Patriot offensive series ended with a four-yard touchdown run by Justin Sengkhenpong. The conversion by Jackson Maples made it 7-0.
Maples put the kickoff in the end zone, but a series of mistakes began with an unsportsmanlike penalty that moved the ball to the 35. A sack of quarterback Ward Coleman by linebacker Frankie Painter for a six –yard loss put the visitors in a third and long.
But an 18-yard pass completion from Coleman to Trevon Brown got the Wildcat offense into high gear. The next three plays gained 10 or more yards. Montrell Baldwin capped the drive with a one-yard plunge and a run for two points, making it 8-7.
“You don’t want to say that changed the outcome of the game, but it definitely put a spin on how it played out,” Sparks said. “It gives them confidence and you can’t give an offense like that confidence.”
The visitors also scored the next three times they had the ball. Brown, who caught four touchdown passes against Purnell Swett in their previous game, caught one for 16 yards to make it 14-7. Moments later, Marquis Harrison returned a Sengkhenpong fumble 73 yards for a touchdown.
A Patriot punt was followed by a 78-yard drive capped by a one-yard run by Ramone Simpson that made it 28-7 at the intermission.
A 45-yard run by Patriot quarterback Dwayne Simpson set up a 30-yard field goal by Maples on the first series of the second half. But the Cats broke the game wide open with an 80-yard scoring drive and then a 77-yard punt return by Brown, making it 42-10.
With most of the Wildcat starters remaining on the field to the end, the way the Patriots finished the game was a source of solace for head coach Chris Metzger.
A 50-yard kickoff return by Lacy, who accumulated 139 return yards in the game, led to a 15-yard touchdown run by Simpson. The Pats were unable to capitalize on an interception return by J’hyvion Justice that was shortened by a block in the back. But the Patriot defense then made a statement.
On fourth-and-three from their own 27-yard line, the Wildcats elected to go for it rather than punt. They made it on a trick play that involved a direct snap to Baldwin.
The Patriot defense responded by tackling Wildcat runners for losses on three plays in a row, including one for eight yards by linebacker Jonah Caliri and a sack of Coleman by Luke Fetla for a five-yard loss.
“We beat ourselves tonight,” Caliri said. “That gave us some fuel for next week against Lumberton.”
Taking over on downs at the visitors’ 33, Sengkhenpong and Simpson did the ball carrying leading up to the latter’s 15th touchdown of the season. The conversion by Maples completed the scoring.
“It’s hard to be satisfied with how we played today,” said Simpson, who gained 98 yards on 20 carries. “But we’ll move on, learn from it and play better next week. We’re all brothers fighting together as a team.”
It was New Hanover’s third win over an SEC team, including a 21-16 win at Scotland High in week two. Coleman completed 14 of 20 passes for 210 yard and two touchdowns. Brown caught seven for 117. Baldwin picked up 101 yards on 20 attempts.
“There were just some pivotal points in the game, but we’re proud of the way our kids finished,” Metzger said. “They battled and won the fourth quarter with their (Wildcat) starters in there.
“New Hanover is a heck of a football team. We know that by their body of work. You know the sun is going to come up. We want to look at all the positives. I think we all need to do that.”
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