Blue Flame come up short at Seneca

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

SENECA — Two minutes — the last minute of the first half and the first minute of the second half — proved to be the difference Friday night as Seneca beat Pickens, 38-20.

Playing for the first time since head coach John Boggs was relieved of his coaching duties, the Blue Flame came out sharp at Tom Bass Field.

But the frustrating part for Pickens was Seneca took advantage of the Blue Flame’s mistakes, while Pickens was unable to capitalize on Bobcat miscues.

9-21 Page 1B.indd“We came out great and scored and got some stops,” interim Pickens coach Chad Seaborn said. “We couldn’t maintain, but we came out really fired up. It’s hard to maintain that the whole entire time. Seneca’s a very good team, and I just felt like there were a lot of self-inflicted things that we did to ourselves. I don’t know if it would have changed the outcome, but the onside kick we didn’t get and the turnover at the end of the half trying to run the clock out and we fumble. They may still win the game. I just told the team they won the game, but they didn’t beat us. I feel like if we clean some things up, this team’s best football is still ahead.”

The Blue Flame defense came up with the first big play when on fourth and one at the Bobcat 34, tailback Jacory Benson was tackled for a three-yard loss by senior linebacker Cole Seaborn.

Seven plays later on third and goal at the 4-yard line, quarterback Tanner Stegall found Sam Lawson in the back right corner for the game’s opening points. Lawson lined up on the left side and worked to the right side making a great catch with 8:41 left in the first quarter.

The defense held Seneca the next two series, and then Bryson Capps blocked a Bobcat punt, giving Pickens the ball at the 25. Capps got hurt on the play and didn’t return.

The Blue Flame couldn’t capitalize, and Dylan Banyard’s 37-yard field goal missed left with 2:35 to play in the opening quarter.

Seneca took advantage of the miss, driving 80 yards in nine plays, with Benson scoring from a yard out on the first play of the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7.

Pickens answered and did so quickly, going 80 yards in four plays. Stegall hit Robert Jones for 25 and 13 on a sliding catch before going long to Lawson for a 40-yard scoring strike down the left sideline with 11:03 remaining in the first half.

9-21 Page 1B.inddThe Blue Flame defense gave the team more momentum, getting another fourth-down stop on fourth and one. This time, Seneca’s Jacob Lynn dropped to pass but he was met for a 12-yard loss by Braden Gravely, Jared Croley, Dorian Butler, Lenny Russell and Jamal Blythe.

However, the Pickens offense couldn’t take advantage. Stegall was picked off two plays later by Tre Smith, who returned it to the Blue Flame 28. Two plays later, Benson scored from three yards out, tying the game at 14-14 with 7:59 left in the half.

Seneca converted on a fake punt on the next series, but was stopped when a fourth-down pass was caught out of bounds.

The next series again saw the Pickens defense come up with the big play. Lynn, on first down at the Pickens 23, was hit by Butler, and his fumble was recovered by Gravely at the 25 with 1:02 left in the half.

The big play led to a disastrous last minute for Pickens, however.

A holding penalty moved the Blue Flame back on first down, and with the clock running, Stegall and tailback Kyle Day couldn’t connect on the zone-read handoff and Seneca recovered at the 13 with 39 seconds left. Seneca lined up for a field goal three plays later, but was called for motion on a fake attempt. Then Lynn scrambled around the left end for a 14-yard scoring run with 11.1 seconds left.

To make matters worse, Pickens was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to end the half, giving Seneca 15 yards on the second-half kickoff. The Bobcats took advantage by recovering an onside kick at the 30. Four plays later, Benson scooted around right end for another score, making it 28-14 with 11:16 left in the third quarter.

9-21 Page 1B.indd“That is two huge turnovers,” Seaborn said. “We’re thinking we’ve got a shot — if we get something to break — that we might even score at the end of the half. From that point, we’re just running the clock out. Then we get the 15-yard penalty. That whole little section of the game was a huge turning point of the game.”

Pickens reached the Seneca 11 later, but settled for a 28-yard Banyard field goal with 5:04 left

Tommy McGaha/
Pickens senior Kyle Day tries to find a hole in the Bobcat defense during the Blue Flame’s loss at Seneca Friday night.

Seneca answered with a six-play, 65-yard drive, with Lynn finding Coleman Smith in the left flat for a 15-yard score with 2:50 left in the third quarter.

The Blue Flame offense again got deep in Seneca territory, reaching the 8-yard line, but again settled for a 25-yard Banyard field goal to make it 35-20 with 9:26 left.

The Blue Flame defense came up with another big play as Stone Prince picked off a tipped pass, but the offense couldn’t convert, and Seneca added a 47-yard Hunter Pearson field goal to close the scoring.

“That field shrinks and the lanes that were there are not quite there,” Seaborn said. “We’ll clean things up. There are things that we can fix and we feel good about fixing. 9-21 Page 1B.inddWe’ll concentrate on what worked and find those things that didn’t and clean those up. Our kicker Dylan (Banyard) is doing a great job. He missed one but bounced back and got some kicks for us. It’s good to have him, but when we get down inside the 20 we’ve got to get seven points, especially against good teams like Seneca.”

Pickens will (1-4) open up region play Friday night on the road against the Greenville Red Raiders, who are 4-1 after falling in the last seconds to Easley last week.

Tommy McGaha/
Pickens’ Stone Prince carries the ball against Seneca on Friday night at Tom Bass Field.

“You want to be 5-0, but when you start region, that’s when it really gets started,” Seaborn said. “You hope you can amp it up and focus on a very good team. I think they had some questions early on, but the way they’ve played the last few weeks, they’re going to be a really good football team. We’ll have our hands full with them. I hope we can fix a few things, clean some things up, and give them a good game and start region play the way we want to. It’s tough to play at Sirrine Stadium, but it will be fun. Hopefully we can get better and give them a challenge.”