Going up against a team the caliber of Richmond Senior, opponents have to take advantage of any opportunities they can get.

Pinecrest was unable to do that Friday night, falling 36-0 to the Raiders in Rockingham and suffering its first loss of the season in six games. It came on the heels of a big conferencing opening win against Seventy-First the week before.

“They’re a phenomenal team,” Patriot head coach Chris Metzger said. “They made some big plays. We just made some mistakes. We had some missed opportunities. We’ve got to do something to prevent that and find ways to take advantage of them. 

“I am still really proud of our kids. They battled hard to the very end. We just have to keep battling. That is the key.”

The Patriots best opportunity came with about four minutes remaining in the first half. Trailing 20-0, its offense found some life, driving the ball to the Richmond Senior 1-yard line.

But the drive was snuffed out on a fumble by Zyheem Kelly. The Raiders scooped up the ball and moved to the 29-yard line.

Richmond capped the drive with a 23-yard field goal with 18 seconds left to extend the lead to 23-0 at the half. 

The Raiders started the game with an 80-yard touchdown run by its highly touted junior quarterback Caleb Hood on the first play of the game.

After the Patriots went three and out on its first drive, the Raiders capped its second drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass, but the point-after kick missed the mark, leaving the score 13-0 at the 8:29 mark in the first quarter.

The second drive of the night for Pinecrest ended with another three and out, with the Raiders starting at its own 46. The Pinecrest defense dug in, stopping Richmond on fourth down at its own 33-yard line with about four minutes left in the opening quarter.

But Pinecrest was unable to take advantage, punting the ball away with about a minute left in the quarter. The Raiders stretched the lead to 20-0 on a 32-yard touchdown pass play less than a minute into the second quarter.

Pinecrest got the ball first to open the second half and the offense again found life, driving the ball to the Raider 28. One of the big plays was a 28-yard pass completion from Ben Garbark to Kelly — one of his two big receptions on the night.

But things took a bizarre turn from there. After two 15-yard penalties along with a 5-yard illegal procedure penalty, Pinecrest was suddenly facing second down and 50.

Garbark connected with Clint McNeill on a pass play and the Raiders were flagged for a 15-yard late hit out of bounds and another 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty.

Pinecrest got the ball back to the Raider 36, where the drive ended on a missed 53-yard field goal by Jeff Yurk, who was kicking into a stiff wind.

The Raiders took over and scored a touchdown with about 48 seconds left in the third quarter. The point after failed, making the score 29-0 heading to the final quarter.

Richmond Senior tacked on a final rushing touchdown with just under five minutes left in the game

Pinecrest was able to move the ball on its last drive, reaching the Raider 23. The Patriots had one last shot at putting points on the board, but a 40-yard field goal attempt was off the mark, with the wind once again a factor.

For the game, Richmond rolled up 390 yards of total offense — 283 on the ground and 107 through the air, according to Moore Sports Radio. Pinecrest managed 219 yards on offense — 111 rushing and 108 passing.

Garbark was six of nine in passing, with the longest being a 42-yard completion to Kelly. He was also the leading rusher, carrying the ball 19 times for 48 yards.

The Patriots were without its leading rusher, Nick Boulanger, who suffered a wrist injury in the Seventy-First game. 

Raequan Harrington had five carries for 32 yards, while Nico Marella had five carries for 24 yards and Logan Leviner had four carries for 20 yards.

Kelly had two catches for 70 yards, while McNeill had four catches for 38 yards.

Pinecrest was flagged seven times for 60 yards while the Raiders were penalized 10 times for 93 yards. 

Metzger said that despite the outcome, he saw some positives in his team’s play.

“We have some things to clean up,” he said. “As coaches we are going to go back and see what we can do to fix some things. It is all about getting better. If you want to be the best, you have got to play your best for 48 minutes.”

Pinecrest returns home next Friday night to face Purnell Swett, which will be the school’s 50th annual homecoming. Metzger refers to each game as another Super Bowl for his team.

“There will be a lot of excitement,” Metzger said. “Homecoming is only great if we go out there and our guys are prepared and ready to play. As coaches that is what we are going to do. We are excited about getting out there next week.”

Contact David Sinclair at (910) 693-2462 or dsinclair@thepilot.com.

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