Blue Flame look to future after season

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

PICKENS — It was not the season anyone wanted for the Pickens football team in 2016.

Letting head coach John Boggs go during an open date may have given the Blue Flame a short burst of emotion, but it all began to unravel in the next game against Seneca.

In fact, the season may have come down to the final minute of the first half and the first minute of the second half against Seneca. The Blue Flame went from leading 14-7 to trailing at the half, and after an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Pickens, Seneca recovered an onside kick to start the second half and scored again.

11-16 Page 1B.inddIt was later revealed that junior quarterback Tanner Stegall had suffered a concussion during the game. He never returned to the sideline, and his return for next season is definitely in jeopardy.

Part of the problem from game one was inconsistency along the offensive line. Only two players, senior right guard Jake Gantt and sophomore Braden Gravely, started every game. Senior left tackle Dorian Butler started all but one. Gravely finished the year at center after junior Hudson Burgess was injured. He started at guard and tackle and could be the best linemen to come out of Pickens in a few years.

There were a multitude of guys who played the other line positions. Freshman Will Boggs started against Easley and then moved to the junior varsity team. With his father now gone as head coach, his future at Pickens is also up in the air. He has a tremendous future wherever he plays.

Seniors Richie James, Tanner Stewart and Cole Seaborn, along with freshman Griffen O’Shields, junior Yosvany Diaz and sophomore Jared Croley all got starts on the line.

As for the coaching situation, Chad Seaborn took over for Boggs and won against Travelers Rest and kept the team together as there were some key injuries and some player defections. The Blue Flame also switched after the Greenville game to a wingback rushing attack a la Georgia Tech, going away from the one-back, three- and four-receiver sets.

“I think we kind of found our identity,” Seaborn said. “We’re just tough-nosed and we have to be disciplined and things like that. I think this team bought into that. They went through a lot of changes. They stuck together. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a group that just kept coming back and showing up. Different things would happen, and they just kept battling.

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Tommy McGaha/
Pickens’ Kyle Day, seen here carrying the ball against Travelers Rest, is one of a number of seniors the Blue Flame will be looking to replace in the offseason.

“They taught me how to overcome adversity, and that’s something I will always remember this group for, because they faced a bunch of it and they kept overcoming it. I wish they would have won more, but they battled their tails off. I’ll always remember this group for overcoming adversity and never giving up.”

Pickens will certainly hire a new coach sometime early in the new year, allowing them to go through spring practice. It is thought that no one on the current staff has any interest. That begs the question where the search may go for the next coach, especially since Boggs was a former standout player for the Blue Flame. Seaborn feels the program is close to turning its fortunes around.

“It’s a community that wants to get behind this football team,” Seaborn said. “If we could just get all the pieces in the right place, I think we got some things in place this season and kind of what we can do. There are great coaches on this staff. The pieces are here. Something is missing, and I can’t put my finger on what it is. There is potential here, and whoever the next coach is, if he can tap into that, we can get to where we want to go.”

Returning next year for the Blue Flame offense is Gravely, who will be starting his third season along the offensive line. He had an outstanding summer at several camps and could see his recruiting profile increase.

11-16 Page 1B.inddJunior Stone Prince returns at tight end, outside linebacker and punter. Prince looks the part and is also a standout baseball player. He could probably play rush end or fullback, too.

Tommy McGaha/
Junior Jamal Blythe will be one of the contributors back next season for the Pickens Blue Flame.

If the new coaches elect to throw it, sophomores Nate Thomas and Jared Barton can go get it, along with junior Daniel Hooper. All three played on defense, too, with Hooper hauling in two interceptions while making several starts at cornerback. Junior free safety Jacob Chappell will be back, too, after he missed two games with an injury.

The linebacker corps could be strong despite the loss of leading tackler and three-year starter Cole Seaborn. Junior Bryson Capps and sophomores Colin Hinkle and Cameron Galloway all got starts.

Along the defensive line, junior Kent Townsend returns at end and junior Hunter Galloway returns at nose tackle.

Gone from this year’s team is Kirkland Gillespie, who missed most of the season with an injury, along with Ethan Mathis, Cole Seaborn, Sam Lawson, Robert Jones, Cole Stewart, Jared Pace, Brandon Batson, Kyle Day, Jacob Garrick, Tanner Stewart, Jake Gantt, Butler and James.