As the clock ticked down Friday night at Hoke County, the Pinecrest football team watched its shot at making some of its own history fade away in the regular-season finale.
The Patriots entered the game with a chance to become the first team in Chris Metzger 13 years tenure with 10 regular-season victories, and also head into the state playoffs riding a five-game win streak.
Instead, Pinecrest suffered a disappointing 26-10 loss to the upstart Bucks, who have bounced back from winning just one game in the previous two seasons, to finish the regular season at 7-4 overall and 4-3 in the conference, earning their first playoff birth since 2012. That year, Pinecrest won the regular-season game 35-7 only to fall to the Bucks 24-14 the following week in the first round of the playoffs.
Preliminary brackets released early Saturday afternoon by the N.C. High School Athletic Association have Pinecrest as the No. 6 seed in the 4-AA West Region and will host No. 11 seeded Reagan, which is 8-3, next Friday night.
Hoke was given the seventh seed in the 4-AA East Regional and is scheduled to host Raleigh Millbrook.
Pinecrest finishes second in the conference standings at 5-2 thanks to its upset win over Scotland County two weeks ago. The Scots lost 48-13 to unbeaten Richmond Senior, which earned a top seed in 4-AA West Region in the playoffs.
Once again, Pinecrest was plagued by costly penalties, turnovers and poor execution at times.
“We just didn’t play well,” head coach Chris Metzger said after the game. “We’ve got to focus on fixing those mistakes. It is a real tribute to them (Hoke). They played great. We didn’t match that. So it is important that we find ways to get better.”
Pinecrest was still without a few injured starters, but Metzger does not blame the loss on that factor.
“No excuses,” he said. “We have got to be next man up. We have got to clean some things up, and we will definitely clean some things up. We have to look in the mirror. We still have a long way to go.
“We are not going to blame the kids in any way, shape or form. We have to get the kids prepared. We did not do what we were supposed to do. We have got to fix that.”
Pinecrest struggled offensively at the outset of the game, unable to score after getting the ball first. Hoke was able to score on its first possession, with Jada McGill reaching the end zone on a 12-yard run with 7:15 left in the first quarter.
But the Patriots struck two minutes later on a 24-yard pass from Ben Garbark to tight end Braxton Barber for what would be the the only touchdown of the night to tie the game with 5:24 left in the first quarter.
Hoke tacked on two more touchdowns in the final two minutes of the first half — the first one with 1:40 left, the other with three seconds remaining to take a 20-7 lead at halftime.
After battling through a scoreless third quarter, Pinecrest cut the lead in half on a 37-yard field goal by Jeff Yurk with 9:49 left in the game to make it 20-10. After forcing a turnover in Hoke County territory, the offense again sputtered, leading to a missed 40-yard field goal attempt by Yurk.
Throughout the game, the offense was beset by numerous illegal procedure penalties.
Hoke County salted the game away on a 23-yard touchdown run with 43 seconds left in the game. Pinecrest blocked the point-after attempt.
Turnovers proved to be one of the difference makers, with Pinecrest fumbling three times, while the Bucks had just one.
Hoke had 200 yards on offense, holding the Patriots to 163 yards, according to stats from Moore Sports Radio.
The Bucks out-gained Pinecrest on the ground, 126 to 64 yards. The Patriots had 99 yards passing, compared with 74 for the Bucks.
Pinecrest managed to convert just one of eight third down attempts, while the Bucks were four of 13.
Metzger said while it was disappointing not to close out the regular season with a win, this is not the end of the road.
“We did not end the regular season well,” Metzger said. “The great thing is we have another opportunity to play in the playoffs. But we have got to be ready to go next week. So it is really important that we rally the kids. We are just excited to have another opportunity to play.”
Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or email@example.com