Greer tops Lions with fourth-quarter flurry

By Rocky Nimmons

GREER — The Daniel Lions’ season-opening winning streak came to an abrupt halt Friday night with a tough 42-28 road loss to the Greer Yellow Jackets.

The Lions hung tough most of the contest, but a 21-point Greer outburst late in the fourth quarter erased a 28-21 Daniel lead and handed first-year Lions head coach Jeff Fruster his first career loss, dropping the team to 3-1 on the young season.

[cointent_lockedcontent]”We made too many mistakes — too many special teams mistakes, too many offensive mistakes, defensive mistakes,” Fruster said after the game. “I mean, you name it, we made a mistake doing it tonight.

“Don’t get me wrong, my hat is off to Greer. They have a great bunch of athletes. We shot ourselves in the foot a little bit. I felt like we competed. The effort was not in question. We just have to go back to the drawing board schematically.”

9-14 Page 1B.inddThe Lions dodged bullets and answered fire throughout the night. But in the end Greer gain the upper hand when it needed it and took a hard-fought victory.

The Yellow Jackets appeared to have landed a haymaker on the third snap of the game as quarterback Trey Houston broke free, blasting up the middle for an apparent 70-yard touchdown, but thankfully for the Lion faithful a yellow flag fell for a block in the back that erased the play.

Despite the mistake, the Yellow Jackets pushed the ball to the Lions’ 11-yard line on the drive before the Daniel defensive unit halted the march and forced Greer to try a 38-yard field goal. Former Lion and current Yellow Jacket head coach Will Young called on Andres Toro, but Toro’s kick missed its mark, giving the Lions the ball at the 20.

It looked like a long night for the Lions as Daniel’s offense quickly went three and out, punting the ball away. Greer wasted little time and quickly produced points.

Jacket running back Quay White was the workhorse on the drive, carrying the ball three straight times. The first two went for six yards each, but the third again split the Daniel defenders, with White racing 42 yards for the first pointd of the night. Toro added the extra point with 6:40 left in the first quarter, giving Greer a 7-0 advantage.

Daniel’s offense could not get much going, again being forced to punt the ball away the next time it took possession.

Finally the Lion defense stepped up. On Greer’s first snap following the punt, Daniel’s Tyler Venables stepped in front of Houston’s pass. But the excitement was short-lived as the Lion offense sputtered and punted the ball away again without a first down.

Following an exchange of punts, the Lions’ offense finally started sparking. Starting at the 27-yard line, Fru’s crew traveled 73 yards in only four plays to even the contest. The biggest play on the series was the final one, in which Daniel signal caller Ben Batson hit wide receiver Brandon Peppers in stride and “B-Pep” did the rest, jetting 47 yards for a touchdown with 11:50 left in the half. Lion kicker Nick Muchow hit the PAT, evening the game at 7-7.

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Rex Brown/Courtesy The Journal
Daniel freshman Billy Bruce stiff-arms a Greer defender during their game Friday night in Greer.

The game continued to be a defensive struggle until fireworks hit right before intermission. First was an incredible 50-yard punt return by Peppers, giving the Lion offense the ball at the Greer 10. One play later, Batson called his own number and raced in with only 34 seconds to play in the half. Muchow tacked on the extra point, and the momentum was on the Lion’s side.

Big “mo” didn’t last long for the blue and gold. It jumped back to the Jackets following the ensuing kickoff, as White took a Houston handoff and busted loose for an 80-yard touchdown with 18 seconds left in the half. Toro missed the PAT, and hte half ended with Daniel up 14-13.

After intermission, the Jacket reclaimed the lead on another huge White run. This time the bruising back raced 70 yards on the final play of a three-play drive that went 76 yards. Young elected for his Jackets to go for a two-point conversion. The conversion was successful when Matthew Huff took it in to give Greer a 21-14 lead with 7:57 to play in the third quarter.

The Lions answered back two series later when another big play got all in attendance on their feet. Again it was “B-Pep” who cause the stadium to rock as Peppers took another punt, this time racing 42 yards for a Daniel touchdown with 1:35 left in the third quarter. Muchow added the PAT, and the score was back even at 21-21.

It looked all Daniel as the Lion defense stiffened and forced a Jacket punt. The kick was downed at the Daniel 47.

On an apparent designed run, Batson hit a nice hole provided by his big offensive line and turned on the speed on his way to a 53-yard touchdown run on the Lions’ first snap. Muchow nailed the extra point, and the Lions were out front 28-21 with only 11:38 to play.

That is when the wheels fell off for the Columbia Blue and Gold, with the Jackets posting 21 unanswered points. Greer just would not let the momentum swing Daniel’s way and again took all of it back with a big play. White was a one-man wrecking crew all night, and on the kickoff following Batson’s score he exposed the Lions return team yet again, going 95 yards for a touchdown. Toro tacked on the PAT, knotting the game back up at 28-28.

9-14 Page 1B.inddThe final two Greer series were short and sweet. The first was a three-play, 39-yard drive that was capped with a 22-yard run by Houston, and the second a was a 59-yard series that again lasted three plays, with the final being a 45-yard scamper by White that iced the game with 34 seconds to play. Toro was good on both PATs, and the game ended with a long ride home for the Lions.

“The defense played tough at times, but we can’t give up the big plays,” Fruster said. “There is no way we will survive our region by giving up 80-yard runs. That part of our defense has got to be improved.”

The loss, though not welcome, may have come at an opportune time for the Lions to bring them back to earth after a 3-0 start and show them that they still have work to do before region play gets underway.

“Our goal is to win them all, but this loss will be a good learning experience for us,” Fruster said. “We are going to have to go back to practicing the right way. Making sure we cover all our Ps and Qs.

“Special teams have been an emphasis. We have worked hard on them in practice and dedicated a lot of time. We just have to go back and see where our scheme is wrong on special teams and try to fix it so that part of the game is not a hindrance to us in the future.”

It does not get a bit easier this week as Westside, the fifth-ranked team overall in the state, will come to Singleton Field for homecoming this Friday.

“We will be playing a small Alabama next Friday,” Fruster said. “We will have our work cut out for us. We just have to work though on fixing Daniel. I still feel like I have a scrappy bunch that can compete with the best of them. We have to play Daniel football before we can worry about stopping an opponent.

A huge crowd of loud Daniel fans needs to be on hand to energize the pride of Lions for the game, Fruster said.

“I still want the fans to come out and support us,” he said. “I hope this first loss will not detour them. We have a bunch of kids that are highly athletic and capable of putting together many wins. We are going to learn from this one and we are going to get better.”

Game time Friday night at Singleton Field is 7:30 p.m.