BHP scores late to topple Green Wave

By Ryan Davenport
For The Courier

Easley — A home crowd, lively atmosphere and raucous student section seemed to give the Easley Green Wave the upper hand on Friday night, but the visiting Belton-Honea Path Bears did not let it overwhelm them.

A young BHP squad improved to 3-0 with two late scores en route to a 42-28 victory, overcoming the Green Wave’s pregame advantages with big plays and gritty fourth-quarter determination.

The final score was not indicative of the back-and-forth affair. Easley held the lead four times throughout the evening, but the hard-charging Bears found a way to knot the score each time. Easley’s offense controlled possession of the football for more than 30 minutes, but BHP needed less than six minutes of game clock to put five second-half touchdowns on the scoreboard. 9-7 Page 1B.inddMore importantly, the Bears took advantage of major Easley offensive miscues with less than five minutes remaining in the game.

The opening half ended in a 7-7 tie, but the tie score was the only preview of the exciting conclusion.

The first half often resembled a sloppy season opener, with the nagging penalties, negated big plays, turnovers and missed assignments typically witnessed when teams first match up fresh off summer break.

The Green Wave’s first possession included two plays that lost yardage and one that gained barely a yard. The first of Easley’s three short punts on the night set BHP up nicely at the Easley 29, but the Bears gave it back quickly on downs. The four-play possession featured a Green Wave offsides penalty and a dropped interception opportunity by Easley cornerback Voc Tabron.

The Wave offense found its footing on the ensuing drive. Derrick Phillips darted through a hole behind the right guard for seven yards before sophomore quarterback Weston Black tossed to senior Carter Wiles in the flat for a gain of 11 and a first down. Two more rushes from Phillips led the Green Wave to midfield, where they turned to fullback Quenten Phillips, who barreled through the middle of the Bears’ defensive front for two more first downs. Following another first-down run by senior Will Drawdy, Black’s 20-yard pass to the end zone was corralled by Wiles for the score despite great coverage by the BHP defender. Nathan Baker’s extra point split the uprights to make Easley’s first lead of the night 7-0.

BHP appeared to gain steam on the next possession. Senior quarterback Kameron Burton broke away from a crowd of Easley defenders and a near sack to gain 14 yards, carrying the Bears into Green Wave territory. The drive stalled, but BHP made the gutsy call to execute a fake punt. Senior Akyah Miranda caught the Wave off guard by taking the direct snap and racing 28 yards straight ahead, but Miranda coughed the ball up as soon as he reached the Easley defenders. Easley pounced on the loose ball at its own 15.

The fortunate turn of events seemingly gave the Wave offense added life. Big runs by Drawdy and Derrick Phillips moved the ball toward midfield. Black then found senior Bralan Fuller on a quick slant that turned int9-7 Page 1B.inddo a 50-yard gain. BHP’s defense stiffened, so Easley sent in the left-footed Baker for a 39-yard field goal attempt that had the distance but was wide right.

Easley regained possession just more than a minute later, picking up another first down on a 19-yard pass from Black to Wiles before being forced to punt. The Bears were called for a facemask on the return, giving the Wave an automatic first down and new life once again. Unfortunately for the Wave, the following play ended with an errant snap covered by the Bears at their own 34.

BHP then found its running game. Ten plays, four minutes and one big Easley facemask infraction later, senior O’Ryan Warren pushed into the end zone behind the Bears’ power formation. The successful extra point tied the game at 7-7 just before the half.

Easley came out of the break clearly ready to take control. A BHP punt was blocked by Wave senior Allen Cheagle, setting Easley up at the Bears’ 24-yard line less than two minutes into the half. Five plays later, Drawdy made a brilliant cut back inside and rolled into the end zone nearly untouched. Baker’s point after made it 14-7.

Only nine seconds later, what would be a wild second half came clearly into focus. Burton’s pass down the right sideline was tipped by an Easley defender right into the hands of Bear receiver Cameron Dixon. Dixon had only distant defenders to outrun in his 56-yard sprint to paydirt, tying the game at 14-14.

Easley’s next drive ended with a disastrous screen pass deep in the backfield. Two plays later, Green Wave safety Sean-Thomas Faulkner stepped in front of a Burton pass just shy of midfield. Faulkner hauled the interception 45 yards to put Easley back on top, much to the delight of an exuberant, camouflage-themed Wave student section.

As expected, the Bears answered. A quick 22-yard run was followed by a Burton to Xavier Nance pass good for 57 yards. Three plays and a Green Wave penalty later, Burton toted the football into the end zone to secure BHP’s third tie of the evening.

Easley wasted little time responding. Tyrese Bradley’s kickoff return started the Wave off with good field position. Black’s third-down pass was short and thrown into double coverage, but Fuller came back and leapt over both defenders for a 41-yard gain. The Black and Fuller show continued when a pass into the back-right corner of the end zone saw Fuller outjump the defender and get a foot down for the score. Baker’s point after gave the Wave their fourth and final lead at 28-21 with 8:29 remaining in the game.

A quick BHP three and out included an overthrown pass to a wide-open Dixon and Burton leaving the game momentarily, so momentum seemed to be in Easley’s favor. Disaster then struck. Black’s attempted handoff to Drawdy was high and mishandled, allowing Dixon to smother the loose ball at the Easley 26. The Bears needed only four plays for Breland Sampson9-7 Page 1B.indd to bull into the end zone behind the power formation, levelling the score at 28-28.

The third short Easley punt was returned to the Green Wave 37, allowing Burton to again take a keeper around the right side from nine yards away and the score. BHP’s first lead of the night, with 2:15 remaining in the game, put the Bears firmly in control.

Only three downs later, BHP sophomore Andrew Owen intercepted a tipped Black pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown. Just 50 seconds removed from the winning score, the BHP fanbase barely had time to sit back down before the interception return nailed down the victory.

“I told our guys all week — Easley is a bowling ball full of butcher knives,” BHP coach Russell Blackston said. “They got after us and we had to make some things happen.”

With the loss, Easley dropped to 1-2 on the season. The Wave will play at home again this Friday, hosting archrival Wren at 7:30 p.m.. The always highly anticipated matchup might carry a little extra significance this year, with the Green Wave coming off two consecutive fourth-quarter meltdowns and the Golden Hurricanes losing to local rival Powdersville last week in the inaugural meeting of the two schools. One can expect the student sections to be loud and in full force.