Emerald beats Lions in OT heartbreaker

By Rocky Nimmons

GREENWOOD — With a storm blowing in and lightning flashing all around, the Daniel Lions failed to hold on to a 14-point lead in the fourth quarter,

Rocky Nimmons/Courier Daniel defensive linemen Avery Conrad, right, and Miles Turmon combine to sack Emerald quarterback Meldrecous Jones during the Vikings’ win over the Lions on Friday night in Greenwood.

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Daniel defensive linemen Avery Conrad, right, and Miles Turmon combine to sack Emerald quarterback Meldrecous Jones during the Vikings’ win over the Lions on Friday night in Greenwood.

allowing the Emerald Vikings to battle back and force Friday night’s non-region contest into overtime and eventually take a 27-21 victory.

“We gave them 14 points when we had the game in hand,” Daniel coach Randy Robinson said following the heartbreaker. “We didn’t do a good enough job in the secondary and we get beat twice.

“That is two weeks in a row the secondary didn’t know the down and distance. That is our fault. We didn’t do a good enough job coaching them. There is no way they should have gone 60 yards untouched or beat us on a halfback pass with both our corner and safety biting up and getting beat.”

The Lions did play much better in week two, but the results were still the same as the Lions are still winless on the season and looking for answers with maybe their toughest challenge to date slated for this Friday night. The Columbia blue and gold will travel to Anderson to face an undefeated Westside Ram team at District 5 Stadium.

“Westside is probably the most talented team we will face all year,” Robinson said. “They are loaded. We saw them on the 7-on-7 circuit. The good news is that we are playing good competition and maybe they will help us when we get into region play. They have a D1 guy and they have a couple of outside receivers that are as good as you will find. They will be a challenge for our kids.”

The Lions were tested from the opening whistle on Friday at Emerald. The Vikings got on the scoreboard first, producing a six-play drive that covered 65 yards.

The Lions’ defense looked to have the series in check until Viking quarterback Meldrecous Jones went to the air on the drive’s fourth snap and found Will Reynolds open for a 22-yard pass that pushed them deep into Lion territory at the 26-yard line. One play later, Reynolds’ number was called again. The running back took a pitch and raced 26 yards for the game’s first touchdown. Kicker Josh Davis added the extra point, and the Lions were quickly trailing 7-0 with 9:10 left in the first quarter.

Daniel’s offense produced a three-and-out on its first possession, calling on punter Justin Craig to kick the ball away. Disaster struck on the play, as Emerald’s De Drennon found a seam and got a hand on the punt, giving his team great field position at the Daniel 13-yard line.

The Lion defense intensified after the block and hammered the Vikings. On the very first play of the possession, defensive end Avery Conrad got into the backfield and laid a big hit on Jones, sacking the quarterback for a one-yard loss. Three incomplete passes later, the Lions had the ball on downs.

The great play by the defense set the stage for the offense to get moving. The Lions mounted a beautiful 10-play drive for a score. Running back Stephon Kirksey was the workhorse early, carrying the rock three of the first four plays, picking up a total of 28 yards. The drive stalled late, as the Lions faced a fourth and 10 at the Emerald 35. Robinson dug into his bag of tricks and found a nice play. Daniel quarterback Ben Batson pitched the ball back to wideout Dante Gilliard, who then pulled up and slung a deep pass to Carter Groomes for a score with 3:21 left in the first quarter. Kicker Rivers Sherrill added the point after, and the game was tied 7-7.

The Lion defense seemed to come alive as defensive ends T.J. Reese and Conrad continued to bring the pressure.

Daniel took over at its own 26-yard line the next time it had the ball and looked to be on the move again. Kirksey ran hard on the series, picking up 19 yards on six carries. Batson also looked crisp, competing four of five passes on the drive, including a 38-yard toss to C.J. Scott and a 17-yard completion to Gilliard that pushed the Lions to the Viking 1-yard line. A sure touchdown was not to be, as a bad snap gave the ball back to Emerald and ended the threat.

Again the Lion defense held and took the ball away from Emerald after the turnover.

The Lions wanted the lead before intermission, and Robinson went to the bench and called on sophomore running back Marnielius Cobb, and the youngster answered with a pair of nice runs behind his big offensive tackles Cade Stewart and Dylan Perry. The first run went for 18 yards, and a second for eight more. The Lions were battling the clock with only seconds left to play in the half, and Robinson elected to call on Sherrill to try a 46-yard field goal before intermission. The kick never got a chance, however, and was blocked, ending the half in a stalemate with the two teams locked at 7-7.

The Lions came back from intermission and got rolling on their second possession following the break. Daniel produced a seven-play drive on the legs of Batson, who picked up 25 yards on three scrambles. Kirksey added a nice 17-yard scamper, but it was Cobb who got in for the score from seven yards out to cap the drive with 6:24 to play in the third quarter. A bad snap cost the Lions the PAT, but they had their first lead at 13-7.

It looked to be all Lions as the Daniel defenders continued to play well, forcing the Vikings to hand the ball over on downs yet again — this time on a fourth and five play, where Scott, playing in the defensive backfield, made a great play to take down Jones on a run.

The Lion offense was stroking, taking over at its own 25 and going the distance on seven plays. Batson raced for 27 yards in a single run, but it was Kirksey who was the man of the hour, gaining 48 yards on six carries, including the final three yards for the touchdown. Robinson wanted a two-point conversion, and Batson answered his coach by diving across the goal line with 17 seconds left in the third to give the Lions a 21-7 advantage.

The Vikings were not going to be humiliated on their home turf. In only two plays, Emerald was right back in it. The touchdown came when Reynolds took a pitch and broke the line of scrimmage and sprinted through the secondary for 62 yards and a score. Davis added the PAT, and the Lions’ lead was cut to 7.

Neither team could produce points on the next two series.

With a little more than two minutes to play, Emerald knew it was do-or-die time. Starting at their own 35-yard line, the Vikings gave the Lions a taste of their own medicine, as they too went to their bag of tricks and called a halfback pass. Jones took the snap and handed the ball to backup quarterback Anthony White, who pulled up and threw the pigskin way downfield to wide receiver K.J. Chamberlain. All the Lions’ defensive backs bit hard on the apparent run, leaving Chamberlain wide open, and the receiver trotted untouched in for the score. Davis added the PAT, and the game was set to go to overtime knotted at 21-21.

The Lions lost the coin toss to start overtime, so Robinson sent his offense on the field first. Emerald was fired up and shut down the Lions fast. Robinson called on Sherrill to chip in a 24-yard field goal to take the lead with hopes his defense could hold. Sherrill hit the kick, but a flag was thrown and the Lions were called for a chop block, costing 15 yards. Sherrill now had to retry the kick — now from 39 yards. The kick ended up wide left.

The Vikings were fired up and took the field. On the first snap, Reynolds ended it quickly, going in for a touchdown and giving his team a 27-21 win.

Despite the loss, Robinson, acknowledged his team had shown improvement since a week-one loss against Easley.

“When the kids saw the film, they played better,” he said. “They worked hard and they played together. A lot of good things happened. They just didn’t play good enough to not lose.

“Emerald has some great team speed, and they have some athletes. It was a talented group we faced. We learned a little bit after the Easley game. We practiced fast and we played harder. We just have to build on that.

“I hope we come out with a lot of intensity on Monday morning in practice. I am just disappointed — I don’t like losing when we play good.”