Pinecrest struck as fast as lightning Monday night as its game with Seventy-First resumed.

Tight end Braxton Barber hit Nick Boulanger for a 79-yard touchdown pass on the first play of its opening drive for the first of 20 unanswered points as the Patriots won its Sandhills Athletic Conference opener over the Falcons in a game that was suspended Friday night because of lightning in the area.

Seventy-First chewed up the first eight minutes of the game Friday, capping an 80-yard drive on a one-yard touchdown by Donovan Wright to take a 6-0 lead.

When the game resumed Monday night with four minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Pinecrest defense righted the ship, shutting down the Falcons vaunted rushing attack and keeping them out of the end zone the rest of the way.

None was bigger than a stop on fourth-and-goal from three-yard line in the fourth quarter.

“That was a key play,” Patriot head coach Chris Metzger said. “Keeping them out of the end zone was big. Our defense shut them out tonight.”

The Patriot defense made another stop on fourth down deep in its territory in the second quarter.

Metzger said getting the win in the conference opener is “incredibly important,” as Pinecrest remains undefeated through its first five games.

“I am just really proud of the kids,” he said. “It was a team effort. A lot of guys contributed. Our offense did just enough and the defense had a shutout (Monday).”

The Falcons outgained the Patriots on the ground, 192 yards to 159 yards, according to stats from Moore Sports Radio. But Pinecrest added another 190 yards through the air, more than doubling the visitor’s total. A big chunk of that was the opening touchdown pass.

Junior quarterback Ben Garbark was six for 15 for 114 yards and one interception. He also scored on a two-yard run with 2:16 left in the third quarter, putting Pinecrest up 20-6, for what turned out to be the final margin of victory. In between, junior Jeff Yurk nailed two field goals — a 33-yarder with 9:36 left in the first half and another one for 40 yards with 6:40 to go in the third quarter.

For the night, Pinecrest rolled up 349 yards of total offense, compared with 282 for Seventy First. Pinecrest’s average gain from scrimmage was seven yards, compared with 4.3 for the Falcons.

Senior Zyheem Kelly was the leading rusher for Pinecrest, carrying the ball seven times for 53 yards. He also tallied an interception on the other side of the ball.

Garbark had seven rushes for 40 yards, and Boulanger had nine carries for 39 yards. Boulanger also had two pass receptions for 87 yards. Junior Niquwan Hill had two receptions for 63 yards, while senior Clint McNeill had three catches for 40 yards.

On the defensive side of the ball, Georgio Najm and T.J. Gaddy were the leading tacklers with five apiece, while Jacob Lawson and Phillip Roberson tallied four each according to Hudl. Lawson also assisted on seven tackles, while Roberson had six assists.

Mac McFadden recorded three tackles and six assists, while Gibson Mccrae had three solo tackles and five assists. Levi Bear and Nick Garbark each recorded two tackles and five assists.

Metzger said his team still has “a lot of work to do to clean some things up.”

“We had some big plays called back on penalties,” he said. “We’ve got to fix some things and get better.”

Pinecrest now has a short week to prepare for its trip down to Rockingham Friday night to take on perennial conference powerhouse Richmond Senior, which shutout Purnell Swett 35-0 on Friday to remain unbeaten in five games.

Metzger said the Raiders have a “bevy” of talent in key positions with players being recruited by top college teams. But he said his focus is on his team.

“The bottom line is we’ve got to get better,” he said. “We can talk about about their two BCS (Bowl Championship Subdivision) receivers, running back, quarterback and others … but at the end of the day, we have got to find ways to improve and get better.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or

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