Pinnacle usually overwhelms its opponents with a powerful offense, but on Friday night, the script played out differently.
The Pioneers (6-1) intercepted four passes, each of which ended a potential game-deciding drive, in a 29-24 victory over visiting Glendale Mountain Ridge (3-4) in Division I action.
“It is nice to have playmakers,” Pinnacle coach Dana Zupke said. “We shouldn’t have to rely on that if you play sound football.”
Pinnacle’s Evan Tompkins came up with perhaps the biggest play of all when he corralled his second interception with 1:28 remaining to seal the victory.
“We came up with that big play there at the end to ice the game,” Zupke said.
Tompkins’ late pick came just five plays after Mountain Ridge had scored and subsequently recovered an onside kick.
“Usually our offense carries us,” Tompkins said. “I wanted to make a play and came up clutch for the team.”
While defense clinched the game for Pinnacle, its potent offense didn't exactly take the night off.
Following a Mountain Ridge 11-play drive to start the second half that ended with a missed 52-yard field goal, the Pioneers went to work.
Quarterback Michael Sanders directed a 14-play drive that ended with a 13-yard TD pass to Josh Hoekstra out of the backfield to give Pinnacle a 22-17 lead with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
“It is big knowing that we don’t have to score every single drive and they're going to come up big and make plays to help us win the game,” Sanders said. “Making turnovers, that is the difference in football games.”
Mountain Ridge had chances to regain the lead, but the Pinnacle defense turned the Mountain Lions away each time.
First, Pinnacle’s Michael Harlan intercepted a deflected screen pass at the Mountain Ridge 30 just before the end of the third quarter.
“I definitely think our defense is underrated,” Harlan said. “Everyone sees our offense and says ‘Wow, we put up a bunch of points,' but we also hold teams pretty well.”
Pinnacle capitalized on the turnover, as backup quarterback Brian Lewerke found Cules Rose for an 11-yard TD strike to extend the lead to 29-17 with 10:07 left. Lewerke was in the game while Sanders recovered from a stinger on an earlier play.
Mountain Ridge took the kickoff and marched down the field only to watch Tompkins make another clutch play, as the senior intercepted a pass when a Mountain Ridge receiver had the ball go through his hands.
Besides the three second-half interceptions, Pinnacle’s Jared Moreland intercepted a pass in the second quarter.
Sanders finished 9 of 15 for 125 yards, while Hoekstra rushed for 175 yards on 20 carries. However, Sanders fumbled the ball once and Hoekstra fumbled twice.
Play was stopped for roughly 15 minutes in the third quarter when Lewerke suffered an apparent neck injury and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. No further information was known.
Pinnacle 29, Mountain Ridge 24
Mountain Ridge 7 10 0 7 – 24
Pinnacle 6 9 7 7 – 29
First Downs: Mountain Ridge 18, Pinnacle 22
Rushing: Mountain Ridge 42-223, Pinnacle 36-223
Comp-Att-Int: Mountain Ridge 6-16-4, Pinnacle 10-16-0
Passing Yards: Mountain Ridge 87, Pinnacle 136
Fumbles-Lost: Mountain Ridge 1-0, Pinnacle 3-3
Penalties-Yards: Mountain Ridge 7-75, Pinnacle 4-35
MR – Favors 30 run (Gregory kick)
P – Hoekstra 55 run (kick failed)
MR – Diehl 11 pass from Ayers (Gregory kick)
MR – Gregory 43 FG
P – Sanders 1 run (pass failed)
P – Hoekstra 13 pass from Sanders (Sweet kick)
P – Rose 11 pass from Lewerke (Sweet kick)
MR – Favors 9 pass from Ayers (Gregory kick)