Blue Flame catch fire to blast Razors

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

WALHALLA — Sometimes it takes a spark to get a flame going.[cointent_lockedcontent] Friday

Tommy McGaha/ Pickens’ Kirkland Gillespie, left, and Isaiah Ferguson celebrate after Ferguson scored a first-quarter touchdown against Walhalla on Friday night.

Tommy McGaha/
Pickens’ Kirkland Gillespie, left, and Isaiah Ferguson celebrate after Ferguson scored a first-quarter touchdown against Walhalla on Friday night.

night, the spark the Pickens Blue Flame needed came in the unlikely form of an ejection, as Pickens pulled away from Walhalla for a 44-10 win.

With Pickens sputtering with a 14-3 lead and driving, Blue Flame receiver Sam Lawson, despite not throwing a punch and getting slugged twice with his helmet off, was ejected after a tussle with a Walhalla cornerback. The fight put the fight back in the Blue Flame.

“They responded well,” said Pickens assistant coach Chad Seaborn, subbing for head coach John Boggs, who was suspended for the game following last week’s ejection for two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. “They could have gone one of two ways and got mad and lost focus, but they didn’t. I was proud of how they responded. The coaches, we had to refocus. We were upset as well. We all refocused, and I thought they responded well after that.”

“It got everybody energized,” tailback Brandon Batson said. “Everybody was fired up after that. We just turned on the switch after that.”

“When something like that happens, you pull together and it’s a lot of adversity,” senior Ridge Clark said. “Obviously, I do not agree with the call. I will let the officials and whoever take care of that. But it definitely pulled us together and it made us want to fight a lot harder, because that’s one of us and you don’t do that.”

After much discussion on the play, Pickens stuck it in as Adam Thomas hurdled an initial defender en route to a six-yard scoring run with 6:54 left in the first half, making it 21-3 on Matt Gravely’s kick.

Pickens scored on the first drive of the game as quarterback Tanner Stegall hit Isaiah Ferguson, who turned almost completely around to make the 38-yard scoring strike with 9:14 left in the first quarter.

Stegall later had a pass picked off and returned to the Blue Flame 22 by Luke Underwood. The defense held, and Hector Luna kicked a 37-yard field goal with 3:08 left in the first quarter.

Batson, who rushed for a career-high 107 yards, took it 57 yards for the next score, as he took a pitch right and cut back left for the score with 9:05 left in the half.

“It’s all about the line,” Batson said. “If they were not there, I could not do anything without them. Coach always tells me to follow the big men, and that’s what I tried to do.”

That’s when things got interesting following a Jarred Pace fumble recovery at the Razorback 20.

Walhalla fumbled on the next possession as well, with Pickens’ Jamal Blythe recovering. That turnover didn’t result in any points, as Gravely missed from 42 yards. He also missed at the buzzer from 45 wide left. The Blue Flame did get on the board with 2:05 left in the half when a Walhalla punt snap went awry into the back of the end zone, making it 23-3 on a safety.

The second half, and in particular the third quarter, was big-boy, football and the Blue Flame were the clinicians. Senior fullback Gunner Covey ripped off runs of 26, 17 and finally 33 for the score on a run left with 10:33 left in the third quarter.

“The more he ran, the better he got tonight,” Seaborn said of Covey. “And Brandon Batson did a great job, too. But it all starts up front. Those guys played great this week. It was good to just line up and do some of that stuff tonight.”

The defense was special as well. Walhalla went for it on fourth and one, but linebacker Cole Seaborn met tailback Logan Maitland-Smith in the backfield for a yard loss. Walhalla had 12 plays for negative yards, as Clark, Tyler Gravely and company dominated.

“We knew we had to go out and do our job,” said Clark, a nose tackle. “They were pretty solid when it came to the run. They obviously put in a new offense especially for us since we didn’t do that well against Wren. We were not expecting that. We had to change it up, and we pulled through in the end.”

The Blue Flame again marched quickly for a score, going 52 yards in five plays. Following four runs, Stegall scrambled and found Batson in the back left corner for the 12-yard score with 5:04 left in the third quarter.

Pace took over for Stegall on the next series and capped an eight-play, 46-yard drive with a two-yard sneak for a score with 11:19 left.

Pickens had brought up 10 or more junior varsity players, and they got in the game for much of the last quarter.

The two teams traded fumbles deep in Walhalla territory. Brandon Moore stopped one drive with a fumble recovery. However, a bad snap gave it back and Walhalla, taking over at its own 6, scored three plays later when Maitland-Smith took it in from a yard out with 12 seconds left, making it 44-10.

Pickens will host Seneca and former PHS head coach Brett Turner, along with former Blue Flame quarterback Elijah Turner, Friday night for homecoming.

“It’s going to be tough,” Seaborn said of Seneca. “They’re loaded and they’re good. Brett (Turner) does a great job. They’ve always had talent over there. They’ve always had athletes. But they’re doing special things this year and are going in the right direction.

“It’s personal in a good way, because I feel like I’ve been a part of Elijah (Turner) growing up and being friends with Brett for so long and having Bart (Turner) on staff here. It’s going to be fun. It will be a tough game. Hopefully we’ll have a good week of practice and go out and enjoy it.”

The game will be aired on WSNW-FM The Lake 94.1.

Chad Dorsett and Adam Duncan will provide the play-by-play and color.