Green Wave roll Blue Flame

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

PICKENS — The 2012 edition of the Easley-Pickens rivalry football game will be remembered for some odd things.

One, the game was eerily similar to the 2011 game won by Easley, 54-20. Friday night, in front of a standing room crowd, the Green Wave again dominated in a 40-7 win.

The ending of the game was odd as well, in that Easley player Kelse Sumrell was hurt, and after a long delay, the final 19.7 seconds were not played as the teams shook hands as time ran out.

“I hope that young man is okay,” Pickens coach Chad Seaborn said after the game. “He seemed to be fine. It was just precautionary stuff, and rightfully so. We said a little prayer for him and his family and hope he is doing well.”

This year’s game again had the Green Wave blocking a punt to set up a score, converting on two Pickens fumbles for two more scores and taking advantage of missed opportunities by the Blue Flame.

“It didn’t feel quite the same (compared to last year),” Seaborn said. “I felt like our kids battled all night long. The effort was there. I didn’t feel at any time that we quit or gave up. We got tired and we’ll have to address that as a staff. They were stronger than us, and that is something we’ll have to address as well. As it went on, the tackles we were making early on, they were breaking and scoring as the game went on.”

Pickens forced a short punt on Easley’s first possession, but the Blue Flame couldn’t convert and punted at the Green Wave 34 on fourth and three.

The Green Wave capitalized ,as C.J. Fuller broke two tackles and made a nice cutback on an 80-yard touchdown run. Troy McGowens’ two-point run made it 8-0 with 5:02 left in the first quarter.

The Blue Flame gave it right back, as quarterback Mason Covey overthrew Disean Anderson and McGowens picked it off and returned it to the Pickens 20.

But the Pickens defense stood up, and two plays later quarterback Kevin Bryant’s pass to the right corner of the end zone was picked off by a leaping Tanner Saunders.

The Blue Flame offense picked up a first down when Covey kept for 14, but a few plays later, Pickens punted, albeit for only 12 yards.

Easley took advantage of the short field, driving 55 yards in 11 methodical plays. McGowens scored from a yard out around the right side. The two-point pass fell incomplete, making it 14-0 with 7:16 left in the half.

McGowens came up with another big play four plays later on fourth and three at the 42, as he blocked Covey’s punt.

The Green Wave took over at the 36 and scored three plays later as again Fuller broke a tackle and cut back around the left side for a 32-yard touchdown run, making it 20-0 as the two-point was stopped with 5:15 left in the half.

The Blue Flame then threatened to score, keyed by Charlie Parris’ return of a squib kick to the Easley 34. Covey converted on fourth and four with a six-yard run to the 22, but the Blue Flame went backwards from there, eventually punting on fourth and 30.

“Offensively, we couldn’t get anything sustained at all,” Seaborn said. “Once we did, we would go backwards a little bit. We’re just are not quite ready to overcome long yardage in what we want to do, and that is stay in front of the chains, not behind them.

“There at the end of the first half, we went backwards on first down on several plays. That’s what we said at halftime is that anything we call that we’re not taking a chance going backwards to try and get downhill and sustain a drive, and we did at the start of the second half. There were just times that we couldn’t get anything going positive. Again though, the kids stayed in it and the effort was there. We were just playing a really good team tonight.”

Pickens got the ball to start the second half and had an 11-play drive to the Easley 9-yard line. Key plays in the drive were a 32-yard run by Austin Clark and a pass interference penalty on Easley, but the drive stalled and Caleb Grant’s 27-yard field goal missed wide right with 6:36 left in the third quarter.

Easley again took advantage of the miss, driving 80yards in five plays. McGowens again came up with the big play, taking a toss right, and then emerging out of a pack en route to a 58-yard touchdown run. JR Crawford’s two-point run made it 28-0 with 4:30 left in the quarter.
Turnovers again bit the Blue Flame on the next possession as Covey fumbled and Andre Smith recovered at the Pickens 43. Seven plays later, Crawford scored from six yards out with 26.7 seconds left in the quarter, making it 34-0.

On the next play from scrimmage, Pickens again fumbled as Covey’s pitch to Antron Wakefield was dropped on a hit by linebacker Sam Houston. He picked it up and returned it to the 1-yard line. Fuller ran it in from there, making it 40-0 with 13.5 seconds left in the quarter.

“The’ve got size up front and they’re athletic, and our guys up front really had their hands full,” said Seaborn. “Overall, there are some things that we’ve got to correct like who we’ve got and things like that. We were young up there with a freshman at right tackle and a sophomore at center. I think we grew up a bunch tonight. We didn’t like the score and we didn’t like losing to our rival, but I told them in there that there is enough positives that if we stay together, we can build on this and by the end of the season, it’s going to be something special for us.”

Pickens finally got on the board with a nice drive covering 70 yards in 12 plays. A key play in the drive was a fade pass from Covey to Noah Morris, who managed to get a foot in along the Pickens sideline on a 28-yard pass to the Easley 23. With Covey out with cramps, Clark stepped in at quarterback on first and 10 at the 11 and kept it around left end for a touchdown with 6:32 left in the game. Grant’s kick made it 40-7.

“Austin has always run hard,” Seaborn said. “He was our JV quarterback last year. We knew he was a downhill runner, and he started some at quarterback for us in the spring and in the summer. But we had a need at fullback and we knew how he ran downhill and that he could do that. It’s such a positive and blessing to have him if something happens like tonight at quarterback, he can jump in there and really attack the option. He did a great job tonight for us. That’s a young one that we’re counting on for several years to come.”

Pickens got the ball back twice more, once following a Hayden Wheeler fumble recovery. The Blue Flame back-ups drove to the Easley 30 when the game was stopped due to the injured player.

Pickens plays at Pendleton next week. Pendleton, one of the favorites to win Region I-AA, features two huge defensive tackles in Michael Hill, who has committed to play at Ohio State, and Carl Jones, an all-region pick last year for Daniel. The Bulldogs won last year, 37-21, as Cam Blackburn rushed for 179 yards and three scores.

“I know we’ll face some good teams in our region and I don’t want to take anything away from our region,” Seaborn said. “Two of our toughest games are our first two in who we have to face. The speed we had this week and Easley’s front and Pendleton’s front next week and the speed they have in the back, we’ll have our hands full again. If we can just make improvements and see where we are next week, I think our kids will come out ready to get better. But again, we’ll have our hands full next week.”

The Blue Flame did continue dominance in one area, winning a fourth Sam Wyche Food Fight title, which was announced at halftime Friday night.

Pickens raised $23,571.59 to reclaim the title. Easley raised $9,111.55 for a grand total of $32,683.14, all going to Meals on Wheels.
“It’s great to be a part of a great rivalry and to raise money for a good cause. I’m proud to be a part of it,” Seaborn said.

Notes: Pickens ran 53 plays to Easley’s 45 in the game.

Pickens struggled on first down. On 21 first-down plays, seven went for negative yards and two plays were lost fumbles. The Blue Flame totaled 36 yards on 21 first-down plays.