(L-R) Captains Deon Jackson, Mark Sommerville, Jamaree Salyer and Gunnor Faulk take the field for the coin toss.
(L-R) Captains Deon Jackson, Mark Sommerville, Jamaree Salyer and Gunnor Faulk take the field for the coin toss. Photo: Fred Assaf

Friday, Oct. 7 the Pace Academy Knights and the Westminster Wildcats met for the first time ever to play football. The matchup at Westminster on a drizzly night was only the 23rd time that two reigning state champions have played, Westminster winning AAA and Pace winning AA in 2015.

The #2-ranked Knights and the #4-ranked Wildcats in Region 5-AAA competed in a high-scoring game that saw several swings of momentum, but ultimately favored Westminster. The game began with a Westminster “three and out” after a touchback coming from sophomore Patrick Markwalter. Senior Deon Jackson quickly put Pace on the board with a 7-0 lead after a 58-yard swing pass from junior quarterback Gunnor Faulk. But the Wildcats answered with an 80-yard drive capped off by a 4-yard rush from Westminster’s star running back, Zay Malcome, to even the score.

In the ensuing drive, Malcome intercepted Faulk’s pass and returned to the Knights’ red zone. Westminster junior quarterback Ward Croft scored from 9 yards on a quarterback read play, making the score 7-14. Then Pace evened the score with Duke University commit Jackson providing another explosive play for the Knights with a 66-yard touchdown run. Army All-American and University of Georgia commit Andrew Thomas, along with 5-star junior prospect Jamaree Salyer, opened up the hole for Jackson.

Pace sophomore Parker Spillers intercepted in the second quarter but Westminster went into the half with a two-touchdown lead, 14-28, with Malcome and Croft leading the way. Senior and University of Georgia commit Trey Blount returned the opening kickoff of the second half to the 25-yard line and Jackson took over at quarterback, running a “wildcat” formation with senior Jordan Payne in the back field as well. Jackson drove the Knights down the field in 11 plays and concluded the drive with a 6-yard touchdown rush, bringing the Knights to within 7 points, 21-28.

But after the extra point, Malcome returned Markwalter’s kickoff for 99 yards and a touchdown, making it 21-35. Pace responded with a big play of their own, an 80-yard halfback pass from Jackson to Blount for a touchdown and a score of 28-35.

The Knights began to have trouble defensively in stopping the senior tandem of Zay Malcome and Ian Ude in the Wildcats’ backfield; Ude finished the Westminster drive with a 3-yard rush. Then, after stopping the Knights on fourth down, Westminster drove 90 yards down the field to make it 28-49.

Pace kept fighting, putting together a drive that ended with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Faulk to senior Mark Sommerville. Faulk scrambled for a 2-point conversion making it 36-49. Markwalter’s onside kick was recovered by Westminster, and the clock expired with Pace falling to a strong Westminster team. The Knights (4-2) look to bounce back next week in an away game against another top-ranked team, Cedar Grove.