ROSWELL, Ga., – Fellowship Christian School varsity football coach Hunter Chadwick is very happy with the way his young squad is progressing this year.
“It does feel good to be 3-and-2,” Chadwick said after Friday night’s 21-14 victory over Pinecrest Academy. “But I try not to focus on the scoreboard or our record too much. Getting better each week is what we strive for. And we are getting better every week.”
Friday’s victory gives the Paladins three wins in a season for the first time since the club finished 4-6 in 2008. FCS, 1-2 in Region play this season, is coming off consecutive 2-8 campaigns, including Chadwick’s first year as head coach in 2009.
Fellowship scored a pair of touchdowns in a span of 2:02 in the first quarter and Blais Furse scored the eventual game-deciding TD from 3 yards out on a quarterback sneak with 9:30 to play in the fourth quarter to put his team up by 14 points.
FCS did not waste any time finding the end zone following a third-quarter touchdown by Pinecrest that had cut the lead to 14-7.
Junior Tyler Hart made a huge play for the Paladins returning the ensuing kickoff 48 yards to the Pinecrest 42-yard-line. Furse capped a nine-play drive with his TD scramble. Bryce Wells kicked the final of his three consecutive extra points for the Paladins, who led 21-7.
Hart topped FCS with 108 yards on 19 carries. He leads the team with 474 yards on 72 carries this season.
“That was a big touchdown for us,” said Chadwick, whose team finished with 275 rushing yards and 32 passing yards on Friday. “Our offensive line played really well. The other really positive part of the game was our defense, especially in the first half. We kept them off the scoreboard and forced them turn the ball over.”
Pinecrest cut the Paladins’ lead to 21-14 on their next possession following Furse’ TD run as Strom scored on a quarterback keeper of his own from 1 yard out with 5:08 to play. That score capped a 65-yard, 10-play drive.
FCS drove the ball from its 20-yard-line to the Pinecrest 30 on 10 consecutive running plays late in the fourth quarter. After Pinecrest used its last two timeouts, Furse took a knee twice as time ran out.
Both teams traded punts to begin the game before FCS scored on their second possession of the contest.
Senior running back Stephen Lantz took a textbook late pitch from Furse and broke outside en route to a 40-yard touchdown at 5:07. It was the final play of a 65-yard drive that featured six consecutive running plays. Lantz, who finished with 85 yards on nine carries, tops the Paladins with six rushing TDs this season. He has gained 390 yards on 44 rushes for the season.
Linneen made a huge play on Pinecrest’s next possession to get the Paladins back into scoring position. The junior defensive back stole Jimmy Strom’s pass on a 2nd-and-10 play from the Pinecrest 35-yard line with 4:20 left in the first.
Four plays later from scrimmage, Furse connected with Linneen on a short completion that the junior receiver took into the end zone to end a 40-yard-drive.
“Conor made a couple of big plays for us in the first quarter,” Chadwick said of Linneen’s interception and touchdown catch.
Following a scoreless second quarter, Pinecrest receiver Nico Sanchez caught a short pass from Strom at the FCS 30-yard-line, broke a couple tackles and raced into the end zone from 38 yards out with 2:52 left in the third quarter. Christopher Birozes’ extra-point kick cut Fellowship’s lead to 14-7.
The 38-yard drive was set up after Linneen lost a fumble with 4:19 left in the quarter. Linneen’s fumble was one of a pair of lost fumbles for Fellowship.
“It was an ugly win, but we will take it,” Chadwick said. “I need to do a better job of getting them ready to play. We keep harping on them about turnovers and penalties. We had too many of both tonight, but the end result was good.”
Fellowship forced Pinecrest to punt on their first possession following Linneen’s scoring catch, but Steven Huffstietler intercepted Furse’s pass on the next play from scrimmage with less than a minute to play in the opening quarter.
The Paladin defense came up big again, stopping Pinecrest on a 4th-and-3 play from the FCS 39-yard line early in the second quarter. Following a 10-yard run by Lantz, Furse fumbled the ball away to Pinecrest again.
Following another FCS punt, Hart came up big recovering a Pinecrest fumble near midfield with about three minutes left in the half. The Paladins drove the ball 30 yards to the 17-yard-line before Wells missed a 33-yard field goal attempt late in the half.
There were three consecutive punts, two by Pinecrest, to begin the third quarter. FCS turned the ball over on the next series before Pinecrest scored their first touchdown.
Linneen led the FCS defense with seven solo stops and 10 total tackles. Lantz recorded five solo tackles and eight total stops, while senior linebacker Robert Germaine registered six tackles and senior lineman Aaron Wilson made four tackles.
On offense, Furse finished 3-for-7 for 32 passing yards, Linneen made two catches for 33 yards and junior receiver Landon Kadi lost a yard on his one grab. Junior running back Travis Kinney gained 38 yards on nine attempts, and Furse finished with 24 yards on seven carries.
The Pinecrest contest was the third of five consecutive Region games for FCS. The Paladins travel to Mt. Pisgah on Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. before returning to Paladin Field for a pair of home games. FCS takes on Holy Innocents on Oct. 14, and hosts Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy on Senior Night on Oct. 21.