High school football season set to kick off Friday night

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier

At left, Pickens senior James Ferguson carries the ball during the Blue Flame Jamboree on Friday night. At right, Easley quarterback Dalton Black launches a pass Thursday during the Easley Jamboree. The two teams will kick off the 2014 season with their annual rivalry showdown this Friday night at Pickens.

By Eugene Jolley
Courier Sports

The 2014 high school football season officially kicks off this Friday night with the annual county battle betweenwe3b SW FFB Pickens and Easley.

This year’s game in Pickens again will feature the Sam Wyche Meals on Wheels Food Fight battle between the two schools to see who can raise the most money for the charity. This year, however, the student bodies at Liberty and Daniel are joining in the fundraising, which will run through Sept. 18.

Liberty will also kick off its season this Friday as it travels to Crescent.

The head coaches of Pickens and Easley appreciate the support their communities and student bodies have given the food drive and are urging for more of the same this time.

“I appreciate how they get behind it,” Pickens coach Chad Seaborn said. “It’s for a great cause. Coach (Sam) Wyche has been unbelievable, as have other people at Meals on Wheels. I’m glad we can be a part of that and help those people in need. That’s what we tell our people all the time — it’s about making an impact on others, how you can serve others and give back.”

“I’m glad it’s going a little longer than it has in the past,” Easley coach Grayson Howell said of the food drive. “With school starting the way it does, our kids don’t get involved. So this gives everybody a chance to be a part of it. It’s obviously important.

“We’ve got people all over this county that need help, and hopefully we’ll be a big part of doing that. I know coach Wyche and his group have worked hard. Our student council is excited about it, so hopefully it will be a great thing.”

Both teams had their final tuneup for the game Friday night at the Pickens Jamboree. Easley beat West-Oak 20-0.

“I love the way we started, obviously,” said Howell. “I think we scored three times in six plays. Defensively, we threw a shutout. I did not like the way the second quarter went. I thought we lost some intensity, and we can’t do that.”

Pickens lost to Clover, 28-0, as turnovers doomed the Blue Flame. Pickens had a bad snap to give Clover the ball inside the 5-yard line, fumbled twice, once driving for a score, and threw an interception near the red zone.

“We’re going to clean that up,” Seaborn said. “Like I told them, we have so much good to build on, getting some drives going.

“There are a lot of positives to build on. It’s frustrating, because you know how good it can be. Their heads are staying up and they know they’ve put the work in. If we can clean it up, good things will happen.”

In other action at the Pickens Jamboree, Pendleton beat Walhalla by a 21-0 final and Daniel beat Wade Hampton, 28-7. The previous night at the Easley jamboree, the Green Wave shut down Walhalla, 27-0, while Pickens lost 21-8 to J.L. Mann. Fellow county school Liberty also played in the Easley jamboree, battling Seneca to a 7-7 tie.

With this being the second year for Howell at the helm of the Green Wave, both coaches have great respect for their foes on Friday night.

“He’s doing a great job, coach Howell and his staff,” Seaborn said. “They do a great job of getting the ball out fast on offense. On defense, coach (Jabo) Burgess is doing a great job of getting them flying to the ball. They’re sound in all three phases, so we know we’ll have our work cut out for us. I like our attitude right now. We have faced a lot in the last several months, and these kids keep responding. I will go to battle with them any day of the week.”

“I know they’ll be amped up and ready to play,” Howell said of Pickens. “We’re playing here and we had a great game with them last year other than the lights going out, the lightning and everything else. It’s like I said last year — we’re going to play hard.

“I respect those guys over there to death. Chad and I are very good friends. We just want to play hard, hopefully win the game and then we’ll shake hands after the game and everything will be great.”

Injury wise, Pickens lost starting kicker Hayden Gravely to a broken collarbone in the Easley Jamboree. The Blue Flame are optimistic about getting Antron Wakefield back.

Easley comes into the game the healthier team and will look for a fourth consecutive win in the series.

“Overall, we came out of it fairly healthy,” Howell said of the preseason. “I think we’re hopefully ahead of where we were last year offensively. I think our kids are a little more comfortable because our younger kids played in this system. I think we’re ahead of the game a little bit as far as that is concerned. We’ll see. Hopefully, we’ll be ready to play.”

Game time is 8 p.m.