Pinecrest quarterback Christian Ledbetter was a one-man battering ram as he and the Patriots knocked Middle Creek out of the first round of the N.C. High School Athletic Association 4AA football playoffs on Friday.
Ledbetter scored three rushing touchdowns in a 38-9 first-round win against the visiting Mustangs with a workload more befitting of a fullback. He had 31 carries for 145 yards and helped wear down a stalwart Middle Creek (9-3) defense. He added a touchdown in the air on 6-of-12 passing for 80 yards.
“He’s a real physical kid. He was running the option (and) he was doing a great job of reading it,” Pinecrest coach Chris Metzger said.
Pinecrest (10-2) coasted after halftime thanks to 14 first-half points off turnovers.
Middle Creek (9-3) fumbled the opening kickoff, setting up a Ledbetter-to-Bradley Black 14-yard pass five plays into the contest.
In the second quarter, Ledbetter added a 3-yard rush for touchdown that was followed by a 67-yard interception return for touchdown by Qawi Alim on Middle Creek’s next drive to put the Patriots up 21-3.
A 20-yard field goal by Michael Rubino accounted for the Mustangs’ only first-half points.
“We made a lot of mistakes tonight. We didn’t execute. Obviously (Pinecrest) did a great job. But we knew on defense we had to be in the right place and the right spot and make the tackle at the point of attack and we didn’t always do it,” Middle Creek coach Mike Castellano said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a lot with penalties and turnovers.”
Ledbetter added 3-yard and 4-yard runs for touchdown in the second half before Middle Creek scored in the fourth quarter on a 56-yard pass play from Brant Grisel to Elijah Perry to cut it to 35-9.
Pinecrest’s Kyle Corbett tacked on a 43-yard field goal to cap the scoring.
Castellano will say goodbye to a senior class that won three conference championships and more games than ay other class in school history.
“They were just great kids to work with. They bought into what we asked them to do,” Castellano said.
Pinecrest travels to Wake Forest, which it hosted and lost to 17-10 in the first round of last year’s playoffs.
“They’re an extremely physical team. We’ve got to bring our ‘A’ game. There’s no doubt about it.” Metzger said. “They do a great job up there. They run a first-class program so it’s going to be critical for us to take that next step.”