Green Wave shocked after lightning delay

By Cole Little
Courier Sports

EASLEY — Leading 28-10 to start the fourth quarter, Coach John Windham’s Easley Green Wave squad appeared poised for an impressive road victory over the Daniel Lions on Friday night.

However, the fourth quarter was all Daniel, and the Lions eked out a one-point victory in a strange 29-28 game.

8-31 Page 1B.inddWith more than two hours of delayed time brought on by an injury to a Daniel player in the third quarter and a lengthy lightning delay soon after, Easley’s momentum — and 18-point lead — evaporated in a span of 12 minutes, leaving Windham far from pleased.

Asked post-game about what effect the lengthy weather-related delay had on his team, Windham said, “Not a good one, obviously. (Daniel) had the same delay. We just didn’t handle it well. We didn’t play very good the last 12 minutes.”

With 222 rushing yards on the night, the Green Wave produced several impact running plays in the first half, allowing them to take a commanding 21-10 lead into halftime. Senior running back Derrick Phillips led the charge for the Green Wave, accruing 142 yards on the ground. With Easley trailing 7-0, Phillips’ 46-yard run in the first quarter sparked the Green Wave offense and culminated in a four–yard Will Drawdy touchdown rush that knotted the game up.

On Easley’s next scoring possession, Drawdy topped Phillips’ long rush with one of his own, a 49-yarder that set up a seven–yard touchdown pass from Easley quarterback Weston Black to wide receiver Carter Wiles. Wiles compiled six receptions on the evening for 93 yards.

Two possessions later, Easley found the end zone once again, this time via a three-yard touchdown run by Phillips. Highlighted by a 64-yard pass-and-catch from Black to the electrifying Wiles, the touchdown-producing drive provided the Green Wave with a 21-7 lead in what was beginning to shape up as an Easley blowout victory.

In a surprising move that ended up costing the Green Wave, Easley opted for an onside kick following the Phillips touchdown that was recovered by Daniel and converted into a field goal just before the half.

Out of halftime, with his Easley squad leading 21-10, Black marched his troops down the field but faltered deep in Daniel territory, throwing an interception to Daniel linebacker Jake Venables, son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.

Soon after, the game took an unfortunate turn, as a frightening injury occurred on an Easley8-31 Page 1B.indd punt return. A block on the play resulted in a serious injury to Daniel’s Nick Taylor that brought the game to a halt. Although he was stretchered off of the field, the brave Lion waved to the crowd as he was being taken off, sending relief through both sides of the stadium. Daniel coach Jeff Fruster said after the game that Taylor’s injury was less serious than it seemed, and he was transported to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

The punt return by athletic Green Wave two-way player Sean-Thomas Faulkner placed the ball at the Daniel 30-yard line. Facing a third and 14 soon after, Black dropped back and threw a dime to wideout Levi Segee for a 34-yard touchdown.

With seconds remaining in the third quarter, lightning began to streak through the night sky, and a weather delay ensued. Following a downpour and an hour and a half wait, the game returned to action, with Easley leading 28-10.

Although the fourth quarter was littered with mistakes that proved to be costly for the Green Wave, Easley was given a reprieve by the football gods for its first fourth-quarter bungle.

A bad snap deep in Easley’s own territory was recovered by the Lions at the Green Wave 12-yard line. The Lions were unable to capitalize, though, as they went three and out and botched a short field goal attempt.

At the 7:13 mark, Daniel produced its first touchdown since the game’s opening drive but failed on the two-point conversion attempt, making the score 28-16 in favor of the Green Wave. Needing only to gain short yardage while allowing the clock to run, Easley was in great shape to come away victorious even after Daniel scored another touchdown on an impressive reception in the end zone, with 3:04 remaining.

Leading 28-23 at that point, Easley came up short when it mattered most, garnering multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and stalling out at every turn. Despite the defense being shaky throughout the fourth quarter, a special teams collapse ultimately did the Green Wave in. Senior Daniel return specialist Brandon Peppers darted up the sideline for a 75-yard punt return to the house that put the Lions up 29-28 with 1:43 remaining. Daniel was unable to convert the two-point try, but the damage had been done.

Thanks to a short kickoff, Easley took over at midfield following Peppers’ return. The Green Wave were unable to take advantage, though, as the Daniel defense pressured Black every play on the possession, resulting in a hastily thrown pass on fourth and 20 that was picked off by Daniel’s Malik Watt to end Easley’s hopes. The Lions were then able to run out the clock and seal the deal on an improbable victory.

Even though they finished with 54 more yards and several more quality drives than the Lions, the Green Wave’s fourth-quarter unraveling dropped them to 1-1 on the season.

Windham said his team must focus and “just keep playing” to prevent a similar outcome in the future.

“We played very strong for three quarters,” he said. “We just didn’t play very good the last quarter, across the board.”

Easley will look to rebound Friday night in its home opener against the Belton-Honea Path Bears, who are 2-0 on the season with wins over Blue Ridge and Powdersville under their belt.

“They’re a good team,” Windham said of the Bears. “We’ll have to get ready and have to get our guys back and focused on Monday and go from there.”

Kickoff will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday night at Green Wave Stadium.