Fruster, Lions beat Robinson’s Stags

Daniel defenders Max May, left, and Miles Turmon combine to bring down a Berkeley runner during the Lions’ 33-21 win over the Stags on Friday night at Singleton Field.

Daniel defenders Max May, left, and Miles Turmon combine to bring down a Berkeley runner during the Lions’ 33-21 win over the Stags on Friday night at Singleton Field.

By Rocky Nimmons

CENTRAL — There are certain moments that go down in history as milestones in a coach’s career.

The first victory is one of those milestones, but for first-year Daniel coach Jeff Fruster, Friday night’s career-opening win came with a significance many don’t get to experience.

Fruster’s Lions opened the 2016 season — and his head coaching career — at Singleton Field in Central with a 33-21 thumping of the Berkeley Stags, led by Fruster’s mentor, former Daniel coach Randy Robinson.

The win signified a passing of the torch for the program, which has only four head coaches over the last half-century.

“This win is something I cannot describe,” Fruster said after the game. “Hats off to my mentor, Randy (Robinson), the team he brought up the road, the way they fought after a four-hour bus ride, you can’t say enough about that team. He has a good group of kids. We might see them again, tou never know,” he added.

Despite starting his tenure in the Lowcountry with a loss, Robinson had high praise for his protégé.

“He is 1-0. He is the only undefeated coach I know,” Robinson joked. “I am happy for him. I love Jeff. Jeff is one of my kids. Now I have a kid in the business, and he is at my school.”

The win could not have been more of a storybook beginning for Fruster. The

Rex Brown/Courtesy The Journal Daniel defenders Max May, left, and Miles Turmon combine to bring down a Berkeley runner during the Lions’ 33-21 win over the Stags on Friday night at Singleton Field.

Rex Brown/Courtesy The Journal
Daniel defenders Max May, left, and Miles Turmon combine to bring down a Berkeley runner during the Lions’ 33-21 win over the Stags on Friday night at Singleton Field.

Lions needed the win, Fruster needed the win and the Lion faithful needed the win following a disappointing 4-6 season a year ago. The victory was a validation of the Daniel administration’s decision to hire from within that was intended to hold the traditions and program together.

The Lions looked comfortable with Fruster at the controls. Although happy with his first victory at the helm, Fruster was nowhere near satisfied with the way his young Lions played.

“It was a hard-fought win for our kids, but it is never going to be good enough,” he said. “I thought we made enough mistakes for two games. We have to definitely go back to the drawing board, but we are going to enjoy the moment. I will let them have that. Wins are hard to come by with the way the region realignments are, but at the same time we have a lot of work to do.”

The Daniel offense, which started sluggish, found a way to win the contest even though Berkeley managed to pick up more than 100 more yards of offense.

“It was a sloppy first half — maybe it was the weather conditions,” Fruster said. “Everyone was kind of tip-toeing so they would not make the wrong play. Once it was opened up, the jitters went away and I had a game to win.

“Early on, the defense is always going to shine. It showed at the end of the game when it started to even up. Most offenses start to find their rhythms, so you have to work harder on defense to get stops.”

The game started with the Lions winning the toss and deferring getting the ball until the beginning of the second half.

Robinson’s Stags came ready to play for their new coach and mounted 30-yard, seven-play drive that pushed into Daniel territory to the 42. The Lion defense, led by senior defensive lineman Miles “Boogie” Turmon, settled in and forced a punt.

A bad snap by the Stags gave the Lions momentum and the ball deep in Stag territory at the 31. From that point it was all Daniel quarterback Ben Batson and running back Kiandre Sims who carried the load. Co-offensive coordinators Jamie Wilson and Nathan Sword started their tenure conservative and kept the ball on the ground for the first eight plays. The Lions managed to push down to the Stags’ 3-yard line, but on third and goal Batson was sacked for an 11-yard loss and Fruster called on his kicker Nick Muchow to get the Lions’ first points of the season on the board. Muchow didn’t disappoint, nailing a 31-yard field goal with 5:34 to play in the first quarter, putting the Lions on top 3-0.

The Stags quickly went back to work, starting a march down the field on their next possession. From the 19, Robinson called on D.J. Robinson, and the back hammered the middle for eight yards. Then Stag QB Darius Douglas found D.J. Chisolm for 18 and then 15 yards on a pair of completions. Robinson added 15 more yards on a quick scamper, but that was it, with the Lion defense stiffening and holding on a fourth down and three from the Lion 23-yard line.

The stop didn’t ignite Fruster’s offense, and the Lions were forced to punt without the luxury of a first down.

A fumble on the Stags’ next possession put Daniel in business at its own 42-yard line as Khalil Anderson covered the ball for his team. It only took Fruster’s offense six plays, coupled with a timely 15-yard personal foul penalty, to get the year’s first touchdown. The score came on a 13-yard pass from Batson to Brysen Smith with 10:04 to go in the first half. Muchow tacked on the extra point, giving the Lions a 10-0 lead.

Berkeley was not giving up and answered with a 69-yard drive that lasted eight plays. The series saw Robinson’s team make it all the way to the Lions’ 2-yard line before once again the Daniel defense rose up and halted the Stags. Robinson elected to go for a 19-yard field goal. The kick never had a chance, as Daniel’s Peter Cote found a seam and got a hand on the ball, blocking the kick with 6:32 to play in the half.

The Lions offense took over on the 28, but sputtered and was forced to punt the ball away without gaining a first down.

Daniel defensive coordinator Kirk Ellison had his unit on fire and ready to play, and the Lions roared and crushed the Stags the next time they had the pigskin. In three plays Berkeley lost three yards, but the Stags decided to go on fourth down, only to feel the pain as big “Boogie” Turman laid the smackdown on Douglas, giving his team the ball at the Daniel 33.

The final points of the half come on a 10-play Daniel drive that covered 54 yards. Batson hit Brandon Peppers for a 21-yard strike, but relied on his legs most of the series, gaining 47 yards on six scrambles, including the last four yards for a touchdown. Muchow tacked on the PAT with only a second before halftime, letting the Lions go into intermission with an impressive 17-0 lead.

Daniel kept up the pressure after the break, quickly putting together an impressive 12-play, 75-yard drive that gave the Lion faithful a chance to see running back Billy Bruce in action. The speedster looked good on four runs for 18 yards. The series stalled at the 23, forcing Fruster to send Muchow on for a 40-yard field goal attempt. The kick was perfect with 6:13 left in the third quarter to push the Lions to a 20-0 advantage.

The Stags’ halftime adjustments did the trick, as the first time they touched the ball in the second half they made it look easym with a quick two-play drive that covered 75 yards. On the first snap Douglas hit Chisolm for 18, and the gun slinger followed that up with a 57-yard strike to Daveon Moore for Berkeley’s first points. Taete McMurry added the extra point, and the Stags were back in the contest at 20-7 with 5:27 left in the third.

Batson and company were not about to be outshined and came out roaring after the ensuing kickoff with a four-yard scoring drive of their own. Batson tossed two passes on the series, and both went to Will Swinney — the first for 11 yards and the second for 39 yards and a touchdown. Muchow was true on the PAT, and the Lions were on top 27-7.

Berkeley answered back with an 11-play drive that went 75 yards. The series was capped by a nine-yard run by running back Austin Miles. McMurry added the PAT with 1:06 to play in the third, making the score 27-14 in what looked to be turning into a shootout.

Fruster’s troops came right back with guns ablazing and went 34 yards to paydirt in just five snaps. The touchdown came when Batson broke free for a 27-yard run for a score. Muchow’s extra point was blocked, but with 10:47 to play, the Lions was on top 33-14.

The final points of the game were the result of a 65-yard drive that lasted five plays. Miles got the final call and galloped in from 16 yards out for a touchdown with 8:50 to play. McMurry added the PAT to make up the 33-21 final score.

“We are not mentally tough enough,” Robinson said of the loss to his former team. “The difference in the two programs is that after that embarrassing year Daniel had, we made up our minds it was going to get better, and it started in the weightlifting class. The attitude of our kids got better, and we just kept the ball rolling all summer long. I went to Berkeley and Fru just kept it going. I have started the same thing at Berkeley, but I have only been there for four months and it will take us a little while.

“I would have rather played anyone other than Daniel in the first game.”

Fruster’s biggest concern is that his team has to learn to put away the opponent.

“You have to go for it when you know you have someone against the ropes,” he said. “I have a fighter’s mentality.

“I told my kids before the game started all I want to see them do is fly around and make plays. If you do the little things right, the big things will come to you. That is something I am going to continue to preach until it’s not my turn no more.”

Fruster was pleased with the improvement of the young running back tandem of Bruce and Sims.

“The running backs ran hard,” he said. “In the first half they were kind of shaky. But in the second half I think they started to gel a little bit.”

The Lions were shaken defensively during the game when team captain Jake Venables, a Division I prospect at linebacker, went out early with a foot injury.

“Oh, it is very minor,” Fruster said. “He probably has a minor ankle sprain. He will be back next week.”

This week the Lions will host cross-county rival Easley. The Wave will enter the contest after knocking off Pickens 14-0 last Friday.

“We have four schools in Pickens County, and we are going to face two of them,” Fruster said. “We are going to attack Easley like we attack everybody.”

And though Friday’s win marked a milestone in Fruster’s young career, at the end of the day it was just the beginning.

“It is sweet, and I’m sure sometime over the weekend I am going to enjoy it, but right now I just want to fix the mistakes,” he said.

Kickoff for Friday night’s game at Singleton Field is set for 7:30 p.m.

Daniel 3 14 10 6 — 33

Berkeley 0 0 14 7 — 21


First Quarter

DWD — Muchow 31 yard field goal, 5:34

Second Quarter


DWD — Smith 14 yard pass from Batson (Muchow kick), 10:04

DWD — Batson 4 yard run (Muchow kick), 0:01


Third Quarter


DWD — Muchow yard 38 field goal, 6:13

BHS — Moore 58 yard pass from Douglas (McMurry kick), 5:15

DWD — W. Swinney 39 yard pass from Batson, 3:55

BHS — Miles 9 yard run (McMurry kick), 1:06


Fourth Quarter


DWD — Batson 27 run (kick blocked), 10:47

BHS — Miles 16 run (McMurry kick), 8:50



                                        Berkeley     Daniel

First Downs                        16              19

Total Yards                       446           359

Rushes-Yards               26-162         44-194

Fumbles-Lost                   2-1                 1-0

Com-Att-Int               16-34-0           10-19-0

Passing Yards                284                 165

Punts-Avg.                       0-0               4-35.8

Penalties-Yards               12-112            10-63


Rushing — Daniel, Batson 21-102, Sims 11-51, Bruce 9-38, D. Swinney 2-5, TEAM 1-(-2). Berkeley, Douglas 14-131, Robinson 3-26, Miles 2-25, Navare 2-(-2), Chisolm 4-(-2), TEAM 1-(-16).

Passing — Daniel, Batson 10-19-0 165. Berkeley, Douglas 16-34-0 284.

Receiving — Daniel, W. Swinney 3-65, Earle 3-50, Peppers 1-20, Weaver 2-16, Smith 1-14. Berkeley, Moore 8-160, Chisolm 4-57, Phyall 3-41, Dress 1-26.