But that was its lone offensive highlight, as the Knights shut out the Wolfpack the rest of the way in a 24-8 victory.
“The offense demands being physical, and our kids came out and were physical and executed,” Whitefield coach Jimmy Fields said. “What our offense can’t do is get some penalties, turn the ball over, and we kind of shot ourselves in the foot.”
Kevin Johnson threw for 110 yards and two touchdowns, both to Reid Williams, to lead Pace (1-0), and Denzel Franklin rushed for 129 yards and a touchdown.
Two Pace touchdowns came after Whitefield turnovers, including a lost fumble and a late interception. It marked Pace’s third straight win in the Riverline Bowl rivalry.
“It’s always better to start out with a team like Whitefield,” Pace coach Matt Hall said. “Everyone’s up for the first game and everyone’s up for the first couple plays, and then you get a lull, but when you play a rival like this, we tend to keep that the entire time.”
The Wolfpack (0-1) could not have started better, with quarterback Everett Pollard running it in from six yards out after a drive that chewed more than 8 minutes of clock. The Wolfpack surprised Pace with a 2-point conversion throw from Max Kemether to Matt Olsen.
Franklin fumbled at the Whitefield 4 on its next possession, but then after the Knights turned it over on downs near midfield on their next possession, the Wolfpack fumbled the ball right back. Pace took advantage, finishing a quick drive with a 24-yard strike from Johnson to Williams with 1:19 left in the half.
The Wolfpack could do nothing on their next possession, and the Knights capitalized on the short field with a 5-yard connection to Williams with 29 seconds left for a 14-8 lead.
Pace opened the third quarter on offense and drove for a 27-yard field goal for a two-possession advantage, and the Wolfpack turned it over on downs with 5:33 remaining at the Pace 10 in their last, best chance to score. Franklin added a 12-yard touchdown run with 1:16 remaining to put any doubt to rest.
Fields did not mince words about the importance of this contest to his team, despite it being a non-region game.
“I don’t care if it’s preseason, out of season, hunting season,” Fields said. “Losing is awful. I’m not going to sit here and say you learn from a loss. What we’d better learn is how much we hate losing. It’s unacceptable.”