Flame host jamboree

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

PICKENS — In their final tune-up before this Friday night’s week zero opener against rival Easley in the annual Sam Wyche Meals on Wheels Food Fight Bowl, the Pickens Blue Flame hosted their annual jamboree last week, falling 20-0 to county rival Daniel.

The four-half jamboree featured eight teams, with only one matchup decided by less than two scores. In the opening contest, Walhalla knocked off Hayesville (N.C.) by a score of 20-12, as the Razorbacks scored on a 33-yard pass on the final play to make a two-point lead into an eight-point win. The second half of action saw the Liberty Red Devils knock off AAA opponent West-Oak by a 26-14 margin. In the third matchup, Pendleton defeated Wade Hampton 28-0.

In the nightcap, the Blue Flame struggled to put consistency together offensively and had no answer for big plays from the Daniel offense. Pickens turned the ball over on an interception and a fumble, and the Flame’s longest possession, a 13-play first-quarter drive, ended on a failed fourth-down conversion at the Daniel 15-yard line.

The Lions got on the board quickly after a Blue Flame three and out and punt to open the contest, as Adrien Dunn caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Andy McCall to cap a six-play drive just 3:09 into the first quarter.

After Pickens’ drive inside the Daniel red zone fizzled, the two teams traded punts before the Lions again found paydirt on the arm of McCall, who found Tyus Gaines behind the defense for an 85-yard score with 11 minutes to play in the matchup.
Moments later, a fumbled Pickens pitch from quarterback Mason Covey was recovered by Daniel’s Judah Davis at the Blue Flame 18-yard line to set up the final score of the night, a one-yard plunge by junior Hunter Cushing, five plays later.

“At times we played good,” Pickens coach Chad Seaborn said. “We gave up too many big plays on defense that we’ve got to correct. The effort was there. They battled the whole time. You don’t want to lose anytime, whether it’s a scrimmage, jamboree or whatever, but there were some flashes that we can build on, and hopefully we will.”
Seaborn said the Flame suffered against the Lions from the same problems that had plagued them through the first part of their preseason schedule.

“You would think we hadn’t talked about it,” Seaborn said. “The last week to 10 days has been ‘we’ve got to finish drives and we can’t give up big plays.’ We need to address some more things in practice to make sure we do those things. Hopefully we will. We had better by this week, as we have a huge test Friday.”

The huge test Seaborn spoke of is of course the huge week zero showdown with Easley, who has had two great seasons in the first two years under head coach Chad Smith, a Pickens High graduate.
“You’re always ready for those guys,” Seaborn said of the Green Wave. “It will be a challenge. (Smith) is doing a great job, him and his staff. The momentum they’ve got going and the excitement they’ve got going, the kids are looking forward to the challenge. I hate we lost the jamboree and the scrimmages and those sort of things are over now. We’re going to correct mistakes and hopefully have a good game Friday night.”

The meeting between the Lions and Blue Flame was the only contest of the Pickens jamboree that was completely live, as others did not allow kickoff and punt returns. It was also the only meeting between the two county rivals this season, barring a matchup in the playoffs, as Pickens has changed regions.

“Pickens plays next week, so I know they wanted to get some work in live, and we hadn’t done yet, so it was fun,” Daniel coach Randy Robinson said. “It’s a good game for the community, because Six Mile’s right between the two and a lot of these kids know each other, so they compete. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

Although Robinson was a little disappointed with his team’s execution against Pickens’ option attack and mental mistakes up front on the offensive side of the ball, he said his squad was “about where I thought we’d be.”

One positive Robinson saw in the jamboree was the play of McCall, who has emerged as the man to beat at quarterback for the Lions. McCall exited spring practice in a battle for the starting job with Jared Dillingham and Daulton Pilgrim.

“Andy just took the lead,” Robinson said. “He makes good decisions with the football, which is priority number one. We’re going to play good defense and not turn it over.

“A couple times tonight we had breakdowns, and he didn’t try to force it; he just ate the football. Give us another chance, just don’t make that big mistake. For a sophomore that doesn’t happen very often.”
In the other contest featuring a county team, Liberty showed flashes of brilliance, although second-year head coach Kyle Stewart was disappointed in his team’s performance overall, and said it must improve in order to approach last year’s 9-3 record.

“We were sloppy and flat,” Stewart said. “I don’t know why we play that way. We’ve scrimmaged West-Oak before, so maybe that had a little bit to do with it. We just had no fire about us. We acted like going through the motions would get the job done, and that’s not the case.”
The Devils got on the board first against the Warriors, as Tanner Chambers scored on a three-yard run to cap a 16-play, 70-yard drive that ate more than eight minutes off the clock.

West-Oak responded with a 16-yard fourth-down touchdown pass on its next possession, but Liberty took no time at all to fire back, as quarterback Brandon Alexander sprinted 70 yards around the right end on the very next play to put the Devils back on top.

Moments later, Liberty’s Eddy Mathis scored on a 46-yard run, and following a three-yard West-Oak score, Alexander again busted loose for a 73-yard jaunt to close the scoring with about four minutes left to play.

“We’ve got some good athletes here and there, but all in all, when we go back and watch the film I think we’ll see a good bit of opportunity that we should have capitalized on,” Stewart said. “We’ll have to check the film to see assignment-wise what we need to fix, but from what I see standing on the sideline, attitude has got to be number one.
“I could tell warming up that we were pretty flat, so we need to figure out what it’s going to take to make us click a little bit better. We had a gut check like this last year, and I hope that that’s what this is tonight for us. This tells us that we can’t just come out and go through the motions and expect to win.”

Daniel and Liberty will both get their final chances to prepare for regular-season play this Friday night when the Lions host their annual Daniel Day Jamboree, scheduled to be played at Liberty High due to a lack of parking on the Daniel campus.

The jamboree will kick off at 6:30 p.m. with Woodmont taking on Walhalla, followed by Christ Church vs. Liberty at 7:30 p.m. and Daniel battling AAAA power Dorman in the nightcap at 8:30 p.m.