In the regular season the one school that kept Pine Crest from being undefeated was North Palm Beach Benjamin School.
On Saturday at FAU Stadium, the school that kept Pine Crest from winning the first Southeastern Football Conference championship was, once again, Benjamin.
Methodically moving the ball up and down the field and controlling time of possession, the Buccaneers downed the Panthers 41-20.
“That was the game plan — keep it out of their hands,” Benjamin coach Ron Ream said. “We were able to get the corner on them. We were able to run up inside on them a little bit. It was just a good matchup for us.”
Benjamin (11-1) racked up 505 total yards of offense and 19 first downs. The duo of running backs McKenna Johnston and Drew Spragg combined for 300 rushing yards. Both scored two touchdowns.
Benjamin quarterback Cooper Hopkins was efficient, completing 10 of his 14 passes for 127 yards and a touchdown.
“They do a good job of running the ball,” Pine Crest coach Jim Pletcher said. “Then they mix in their play action and the passing game. Offensively, it’s just a good group.”
The Panthers (10-2) got the game to within a touchdown early in the second half when quarterback Zach Smith found Kalvin Cline’s outstretched arms as Cline streaked down the sideline for a 59-yard score.
But the Buccaneers then reeled off three consecutive touchdowns and put the game out of reach in the fourth quarter.
“We got back to 21-14, and we were kind of excited. Then we had a couple of plays that kind of took the spark away,” Pletcher said. “You look back at it, and you can say if this, if that, but that’s not the game of football.”
Smith, who finished 11 of 25 for 216 yards also connected with Lance Crawford from 48 yards out for a score on the last play of the game, but the outcome had already been decided long before.
Pletcher addressed a somber locker room after the game that consisted of 15 seniors that played their final down of high school football.
“We got beat by a really good football team tonight, and we didn’t give it away, they took it,” said Pletcher, who individually congratulated each of his players, some with tears in their eyes, after the game. “As we tell them, ‘The sun will come up tomorrow morning.’”
With the victory, Benjamin became the Southeastern Football Conference’s first-ever champion. The conference was formed this past offseason as a way to organize independent teams throughout Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach and Monroe counties.
PINE CREST 20
BEN- Johnston 1 run (Hopkins kick)
PC- Diener 1 run (Milstein kick)
BEN- Spragg 78 run (Hopkins kick)
BEN- Johnston 15 run (Hopkins kick)
PC- Cline 59 pass from Smith (Milstein kick)
BEN- Spragg 1 run (Hopkins kick)
BEN- Theofilos 2 run (Hopkins kick)
BEN- Sanford 2 pass from Hopkins (kick failed)
PC- Crawford 48 pass from Smith (no kick)