Blue Flame struggle in loss at Greenville

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

GREENVILLE – Playing without their starting quarterback was not what Pickens had wanted going into the season.

Friday night in the Region I-4A opener at Greenville, that was exactly the case, for both teams.

Greenville (5-1) scored 44 points in the opening half, taking advantage of three turnovers in a 51-0 blowout of the Blue Flame.

10-3 Page 1B.inddPickens starting quarterback Tanner Stegall was held out after suffering a concussion the previous week against Seneca. Senior Jared Pace tried to rally the troops but the offense, which has struggled for most of the season, was very limited at best.

Greenville, even with backup quarterback DaVonte Blakely in for the injured Davis Beville, was anything but limited with the running of tailback Jahmein Dendy and receiver Tydricus Hellams and company.

“We missed Tanner, but Jared had a good week of practice,” Pickens coach Chad Seaborn said. “It’s hard to simulate their speed on both sides of the ball.”

Pickens got the ball first and actually drove into Greenville territory for one of only two times in the game. Pace hit tight end Stone Prince on third down, and Kyle Day’s running helped the Blue Flame convert three third downs before the drive stalled.

10-3 Page 1B.inddGreenville, coming off a last-second loss at Easley, came out quick running the no-huddle spread offense. The Red Raiders went 87 yards in 13 plays covering less than three minutes. Dendy took it the final yard as his running and the passing of Blakely led the drive. Kaelin Braswell ran in the two-point conversion, making it 8-0 with 4:26 left in the first quarter.

The Blue Flame offense went backwards on the next series and punted. Greenville struck quickly, going 49 yards in three plays. Blakely found Hellams from three yards out with 2:35 left in the first, making it 15-0 on Jack Henegan’s kick.

Tommy McGaha/
Pickens quarterback Jared Pace runs away from a Greenville defender during their game Friday night.

More of the same came next. Pickens punted after three plays, and it took Greenville five to record another score. On a flea flicker, Blakely hit Mack Braswell for a 40-yard scoring strike with 11:49 left in the half, making it 22-0.

Then the turnover bug hit the Blue Flame. Pace couldn’t handle the exchange, and Savion Linen recovered at the Blue Flame 33. Four plays later, the Pickens defense came up with a big play as Dendy was going in and was hit by Jacob Chappell and fumbled. Jamal Blythe recovered at the 1-yard line.

10-3 Page 1B.inddThe Pickens defense came up with another stop as a 34-yard field goal missed wide left with 6:34 left in the half.

The Blue Flame offense got going, boosted by the running of Blythe, but facing fourth down and three at the 44, Pace was stopped for no gain.

Greenville then broke it open as Blakely hit Hellams on a little pass. He made a move and seemingly was running beside defenders who never dove en route to a 56-yard touchdown. Kaelin Brasell hit Joe Christian for the two-point pass, making it 30-0 with 3:31 left in the half.

Tommy McGaha/
Pickens’ Jamal Blythe tries to break through the Greenville defensive line during the Blue Flame’s loss at Sirrine Stadium on Friday night.

Like in their previous loss against Seneca, wanting to get to the locker room, the Blue Flame couldn’t get there quick enough, as Pace fumbled and Connelly Mitchell recovered at the 2-yard line. Dendy scored on the next play, making it 37-0 with 2:41 left in the half.

10-3 Page 1B.inddUnfortunately, it got worse. Pace, rolling right and trying to throw back to his left, was picked off by Mitchell, who returned it 65 yards for the score, making it 44-0 with 57 seconds left.

The clock ran continuously in the second half as only 43 plays were run from scrimmage. Greenville scored the only touchdown of the second half on the opening 15-play drive, capped by Blakely’s three-yard keeper with 4:58 left in the third quarter.

“I told the guys that I was proud that they didn’t quit,” Seaborn said. “It could have gotten bad at halftime with the score, but those guys came out and didn’t quit. I was proud of them for that.”

In addition to Stegall, the Blue Flame were missing starting linebacker Bryson Capps, who injured a leg versus Seneca.

Day became the first Pickens back to eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game this season with 104 yards on 27 carries.

The Blue Flame will look to bounce back this week when they play at Belton-Honea Path. The Bears did not play Friday night.