FAYETTEVILLE – A second-quarter goal line stand turned the game around for Pope John Paul II Friday night.
The Knights defeated Lincoln County 21-17, stopping the Falcons on third-and-goal and fourth-and-goal from the 1 yard line. A score would have wiped out an early 14-0 PJP II lead and tied the game, but the Knights didn’t allow it to happen.
“It was probably the big point for the defense in the ballgame,” said Pope John Paul II coach Jerry Joslin. “That was a crucial thing that happened. It’s fourth-and-one and we had a huge play out of a kid (Zack Scott).”
Quer’Derius Hunter rushed for 178 yards and three touchdowns and Ben Brooks competed 14-of-20 passes for 175 yards for PJP II.
After a slow start, Lincoln County quarterback Eli Eason completed 21-of-38 passes for 217 yards.
“Our offense came out and really did a good job and we had two three-and-outs defensively,” Joslin said. “So it was a really good first quarter. Then they got into their throwing game and we gave up some big plays.”
The Knights scored on their first drive, going 71 yards in 10 plays. After missing on his first pass attempt, Ben Brooks completed nine straight, three on the first touchdown drive. He completed a 20-yard pass to Jermaine Mason to give the Knights first and goal at the 2. Hunter scored the first of three touchdowns from that point to make it 7-0.
After Lincoln County’s first drive was three-and-out, the Knights took over at the 48. They took nine plays to get into the end zone again. Brooks completed all his only pass attempt of the drive, a 16-yarder to Jacob Catignani to the 5. Hunter took it into the end zone from there on the next play, and it was 14-0 with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter.
In the first half, Brooks was 5-of-6 for 73 yards and had nine straight completions.
“The offensive line was doing a great job keeping them off my back,” said Brooks. “The receivers were finding open areas, doing a great job making me look good.”
The Falcons only managed four yards in the first quarter and had no first downs until the first play of the second quarter, when Eason connected for 22 yards to Shelton Smith.
That jump-started things for Lincoln County, and the Falcons went on a 17-play drive which went 82 yards and took 7:09 off the clock. Eason came up with three third-down conversions in the drive and the Falcons converted when they went for it on 4th-and-one from the 42.
The Falcons scored with 5:24 left in the first half on a five-yard pass from Eason to Smith, cutting it to 14-7.
The Falcons successfully regained possession after an onside kick. The ball squirted through the hands of two PJP players before being recovered by Lincoln County, and the Falcons were in business at the 36.
Lincoln County drove to the 1 yard line, and faced fourth-and-goal. The Falcons went for it and tried to hand it off to Cole Crabtree. Linebacker Scott met him and dropped him at the 2 to keep him out of the end zone with 1:51 left in the second quarter.
“We just all played as a team, we all did our job and it worked out,” said Scott. “We played our positions right.”
The Falcons scored a field goal to cut the gap to four on their first possession of the second half, a 45-yarder by Colton Wicks.
The Knights put together a 12-play, 80-yard drive to answer. Brooks completed all four of his pass attempts in the drive and got it in the end zone when Hunter scored his third touchdown, from three yards out.
The Falcons answered with a one-play drive. Logan Wheat took it 80 yards into the end zone after the kickoff.
The teams exchanged possessions until the 9:50 mark, when the Falcons gained possession after stopping PJP on a fourth-down conversion attempt at the 19. The Falcons drove to the PJP 30, but a fourth-and-four attempt failed, and the Knights were able to regain possession with 4:55 left. Their final drove took the rest of the time off the clock.
With the win, the Knights start off the season 2-0. Joslin said winning at Lincoln County was a huge accomplishment.
“It’s a class organization, class coaches,” said Joslin. “It’s a fun place to play.”