Scotland coach Richard Bailey has expressed the importance of simply winning games all season long.
But after a dominant first half against Pinecrest that was eerily reminiscent of Scotland’s rout of Purnell Swett last week, a different Scotland team took the field in the third quarter.
Penalties, lack of execution and perhaps a false sense of security resulted in several Scotland miscues that gave Pinecrest an opportunity to climb back.
But the impossible Pinecrest comeback would ultimately remain just that, as Scotland returned to form in the final minutes of the game to best the Patriots 34-11.
Scotland moves to 6-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference with the win.
“We went away from our game plan in the second half because we wanted to try some new things, and in hindsight we shouldn’t have,” said Bailey after the game. “There were plays that we just didn’t execute well on, and as a coach I take that personally. Fortunately for us we did a great job of executing in the first half and that was enough to give us a win against a good team.”
The strong foot of the Patriots’ Jackson Maples gave Scotland possession at their own 20-yard line to start the game. The special teams play led by Maples has been a strong suit of Pinecrest throughout the season, as the senior kicker has pinned opponents deep in their own territory time and time again.
But as they did against Purnell Swett last week, the Fighting Scots jumped out to an early lead with their multi-prong rushing attack.
What appeared different ,however, was Scotland’s cast of backfield rushers. Josh McPhatter and McLean had runs of 15+yards on the eight-play, 65-yard opening drive, but senior wideout Justin Brown also took a carry for nine yards. The drive culminated with a seven-yard TD run by junior running back Tre Thomas, who has also been used sparingly this season.
On the whole, Scotland would compile 305 total rushing yards on the night, led by McPhatter (75), Scotland quarterback Jaylend Ratliffe (68) and McLean (50). It would be needed, as Ratliffe had a rare off night from behind center, collecting just 58 passing yards on 8-18 completions.
Thus far this season, Pinecrest has found success with their ability to force turnovers and control the game clock. But Scotland gave them a taste of their own medicine in the first quarter, and the game quickly got out of hand.
After a quick offensive series for Pinecrest that ended after five plays, Scotland regained offensive possession and proceeded to engineer a time-consuming drive. By the time Jalen McLean took an outside sweep nine yards for a score, Scotland had burned nearly nine combined minutes off the clock and quieted the Pinecrest home crowd.
The Patriots’ Nick Lacy would fumble the kickoff after the score, and Scotland safety Robert McKoy recovered to give the Scots yet another red zone opportunity.
Two plays later, and it would be McPhatter with a straight-ahead run for the one-yard rushing TD to end the first quarter with Scotland up 20-0 over the Patriots. The touchdown came less than a minute after McLean’s previous touchdown run.
Things became even more dire for Pinecrest when the Scotland coaching staff pulled out a fake punt in the early minutes of the second quarter.
Scotland’s fondness of trickery on fourth down situations has become a calling card for the team in 2012, and when outside linebacker Artemis Robinson received a direct snap at the eight-minute mark it resulted in their most successful of the season.
Finding a seam in the Patriots’ interior defense, Robinson would turn on the jets for a 54-yard rushing touchdown. And on the defensive side of things, Robinson played a large role in a Scotland front-seven that utterly dominated Pinecrest in the early goings.
Pinecrest notched 96 yards of total offense (41 rushing, 55 passing) in the first half with their longest play (a 21-yard connection between quarterback Dwayne Simpson and Nick Lacy) coming in the waning seconds of the second quarter. It would set up a 36-yard field goal for Maples that made the score 27-3 in favor of the Scots heading into the half.
Scotland’s very first offensive series in the second half would be a sign of things to come until late in the fourth quarter.
After a 25-yard TD keeper by Ratliffe on Scotland’s first drive was negated by a holding call, the resulting drive would end in a turnover on downs for the Scots.
Not only was it Scotland’s first unsuccessful offensive possession of the game, it was the first of two consecutive failed fourth-down conversions for a Scots team that appeared sluggish in the second half.
Assisted by a defensive holding penalty called on the Scots, Pinecrest finally found success in the final minutes of the third quarter after a 24-yard run by Simpson put the Patriots inside Scotland’s five-yard line. Simpson would push the ball in two plays later, and after a two-point conversion the score was 27-11 heading into the fourth quarter.
In addition to being outplayed in the third quarter, Scotland was also plagued by penalties particularly in the second half of play. The Scots racked up 10 penalties for 90 yards on the night.
“Penalties killed us in the second half, almost to the point of being comical,” Bailey said. “While we got it together in the fourth quarter, I give Pinecrest credit for their second half game plan. On the whole, they made way better halftime adjustments than we did.”
Pinecrest would continue building momentum early in the fourth quarter, as Simpson converted a broken down pass play into a huge 20-yard run that once again put the Patriots in position to score.
But then the Pinecrest turnovers began once again, and the Patriots’ mistakes halted any attempt of further chipping away at Scotland’s lead.
On the same drive as Simpson’s scamper, a fumble would be recovered by Scotland linebacker J.P. Douglas (his second fumble recovery of the game) that staved off the Pinecrest push.
After another unsuccessful Scotland possession, Pinecrest turned the ball over again as Simpson forced a pass into double coverage. The ball would be picked by Scotland corner Ryan Leak, and on the ensuing drive the Scots would ice the game with an 18-yard touchdown run by Ratliffe.
The Scots will again be on the road next week, taking on Hoke for the third game of their conference schedule.