Any concerns about the Mountain Lions being down over last week’s loss to Williamsburg were laid to rest early. Brad Fuson scored on a 39-yard touchdown run right off the bat and Pineville rolled to a 43-7 win over Berea in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs on Friday.
Fuson needed just ten carries to run for 152 yards and three touchdowns. Pineville’s five first-half scores all covered at least 36 yards and they all came on the ground as the Lions overwhelmede the Pirates with big plays.
“I was just proud of our kids for coming out and getting off to a quick start. The defense played really well, the offense had some hang ups at times but we knew we could run the ball when we wanted to,” Pineville coach Bart Elam said. “We had four or five speakers come in and talk to us from the community this week about bouncing back. In life you’re going to get your tails kicked more than once. It’s not whether it’s going to happen, it’s how you bounce back from it.”
With senior running back Conner Ford questionable coming in, the Lions leaned on Fuson to carry the running game while mixing in several other players. Junior Keith Sexton broke free later in the first quarter for a 36-yard touchdown run and Will Adams’ second extra point made it 14-0.
“We’ve kind of held him in our back pocket all year. He’s the fastest kid on our team, but this is his first year back after taking a few years off from football,” Elam said of Sexton. “He’s kind of working himself in there, but when you can get him the ball in space he is very, very fast. He adds another element and that’s something we wanted to see if we could do. He did a great job, I’m really proud of him.”
Fuson added touchdown runs of 40 and 56 yards early in the second quarter to stake Pineville to a 28-0 lead.
Berea got on the board with just under 3:00 left in the first half when Kevin Reed hooked up with Deondre Tate for a 42-yard touchdown pass. Derek Castle added the extra point to bring the Pirates within 28-7, but that was as close as they got.
Ford returned the following kick 18 yards to midfield. On the next play he ran through a tackler and turned the corner for a 50-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game.
“We looked around in the second quarter and I asked coach Murphy up top if Conner had got a touch yet,” Elam said. “We knew they were going to cram the box and take our fullback away as far as running the football. We didn’t really want him to get touches, we wanted him to run around and move around but stay fresh for next week after we got ahead early.
“I talked to him and he said he’s like to get in the end zone. We gave him one touch and he got in the end zone and I said, You’re done.”
Ford got one more carry, a 7-yarder on a keeper out of the Wildcat on Pineville’s first drive of the third quarter. That drive was mostly about sophomore receiver Jalen Byrd. Byrd caught a 13-yard pass from Tucker Woolum, drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone and then capped the drive by catching a 10-yard touchdown pass on a slant route. Fuson ran in the conversion to put the Lions up 43-7 with 7:43 to play in the quarter and the clock ran continuously the rest of the way.
“I’m really proud of Jay Byrd getting in the end zone. He’s played that X all year and he’s a great receiver. We haven’t given him a lot of attention and that’s something we’ve got to do a better job of is spreading the ball out and that’s my fault,” Elam added.
Pineville nearly had one more touchdown late in the game when senior Matt Hubbard recovered a fumbled punt return and took it 35-yards to the end zone. But the play was wiped out because of a penalty.
Berea ends the season with a record of 2-9. Up next for the Mountain Lions (7-4) is a trip to Williamsburg for the regional semifinals. It was just last week that Pineville lost at home to the Yellow Jackets 47-0.
“There are crazy things that happen in the playoffs all the time. I think we can be a lot better than what we were the first time we played them,” Elam said. “We know they’re a good, dynamic team but we don’t have any pressure on us. We’ve got to go to the drawing board and figure out what in the world we can do to have some positive things go our way and be in the game and have a chance to win it in the end. That’s what we’re going to do this week.”
— — —
P- Brad Fuson 39 run (Will Adams kick)
P- Keith Sexton 36 run (Adams kick)
P- Fuson 40 run (Dalton Ledbetter pass from Tucker Woolum)
P- Fuson 56 run (kick fail)
B- Deondre Tate 42 pass from Kevin Reed (Derek Castle kick)
P- Conner Ford 50 run (Adams kick)
P- Jalen Byrd 10 pass from Woolum (Fuson run)
RUSHING — Berea, Deondre Tate 4-49, Kevin Reed 9-14, Joshua Lamb 4-13, Jason Strong 1-1, Cory Mowery 4-(-3); Pineville, Brad Fuson 10-152, Keith Sexton 4-88, Conner Ford 2-57, Cameron Miracle 2-(-1), Caleb McCorkle 1-(-3), Joe Collett 4-(-6), Tucker Woolum 1-(-11).
PASSING — Berea, Reed 10-28-1-123; Pineville, Woolum 5-9-1-74, Will Adams 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — Berea, Tate 4-70, Strong 3-41, Lamb 1-9, Mowery 1-7, Jacob Stamper 1-(-4); Pineville, Adams 2-50, Jalen Byrd 2-23, Ford 1-1.