Jamborees kick off high school football season

Rocky Nimmons/Courier

Pickens quarterback Tanner Stegall scrambles against Christ Church during the Foothills FCA Jamboree on Saturday in Central.

By Eugene Jolley
and Rocky Nimmons

Carl Ackerman/Photo Daniel High School's Dante Gilliard runs after a catch against Berea during the Foothills FCA Jamboree on Saturday in Central.

Carl Ackerman/Photo
Daniel High School’s Dante Gilliard runs after a catch against Berea during the Foothills FCA Jamboree on Saturday in Central.

CENTRAL — Local high school football fans got a little taste of the upcoming season last week, as Easley held its annual “Meet the Green Wave” event and the other three county teams saw action at the 2015 Foothills FCA Jamboree held Saturday at Singleton Field in Central.

After Green Wave fans had the opportunity to meet this year’s squad and new coach John Windham on Friday, Pickens, Liberty and Daniel all had a chance to fine-tune their gridiron machines prior to the season in the event. The Blue Flame faced Christ Church, while Liberty scrimmaged Southside Christian and the host Lions took on Berea.

Pickens started the action with two quarters against the Cavaliers.
Christ Church got two long passing touchdowns and a field goal in beating Pickens 17-0.

The Blue Flame offense struggled to get anything going in the game and fumbled once. Defensively, senior end Tyler Gravely had two sacks and the Blue Flame recorded two additional sacks.

“We looked tired and we looked a little disheveled,” first-year Pickens coach John Boggs said. “It was a little frustrating, but that’s what preseason is about, and you’ll have those days. I thought defensively, once we settled down and made some adjustments, we did a pretty good job late in the half. Offensively, we could never really get anything going and get in rhythm. A lot of that is credit to them by moving their front around and doing some things.

“As you are installing things and working, it takes a little time, and when those parts are kind of still and all of a sudden they start moving, it starts confusing some guys who really don’t have a whole lot of experience. We’ve got to continue to work and find the right guys and find the right pieces right there.”

Liberty entered its matchup with Southside Christian fresh off the finish of camp, and the grueling workouts seemed to slow the Devils from the start. Liberty had even worked out earlier in the day, so legs were a bit weary for Kyle Stewart’s squad, which fell 30-6 in the night’s action.

The Devils started off the game with two nice runs by running back Tyler Renaud and junior quarterback Austin Huey. A holding penalty slowed the momentum, and the drive sputtered to a halt, forcing a punt.

The Sabres wasted absolutely no time in exploiting the fatigue in the Red Devil defense, scoring on their very first play of the game. Just like that, the Devils were reeling and the onslaught didn’t let up.

Southside Christian scored every time it had the ball, mounting 30 points on five possessions.

The Red Devil offense did have some nice plays, but mistakes hurt as they failed to score until the last series of the night.

Liberty put together an 80-yard drive that lasted 12 plays, resulting in a touchdown with 24 seconds to go. Hard running by Renaud, Shawn Karr and Aaron Bates highlighted the series, along with great play from Huey behind center.

The touchdown came when Huey found Brayden Shirley open from 26 yards out for the score. The point after attempt was no good.

“I am upset with the mental mistakes most of all,” Stewart said. “As far as the effort goes, we just came out of our three-day camp. We rode them pretty hard, and they had a pretty intense workout this morning also, so I expected the dead-leggedness, but the mental toughness has to be there.”

Finally the home crowd got what it came to see as the Lions took Singleton field for the first time this season.

The defense shined the brightest for coach Randy Robinson’s team as it dominated the line of scrimmage from the opening whistle, posting a shutout in the Lions’ 21-0 victory over Berea.

“After our last scrimmage (on Friday against J.L. Mann) where our defense didn’t dominate anybody, we watched some film and made some corrections, and our guys played a lot better tonight,” Robinson said. “I think the film session embarrassed some of them. They were clearly in the wrong gaps and missing tackles, and tonight we were in position to make plays and our guys made tackles.”

The scrimmage started with the Bulldogs taking the opening kickoff and putting the ball into play at their own 20. The Lion defense roared from the start and quickly forced a punt.

Daniel took control at the 41-yard line and shoved the ball down Berea’s throat. Lion quarterback Ben Batson looked like a seasoned pro tossing the ball around, while the Daniel offensive line pounded the Bulldog defense, opening gaping holes for Lion runners to get through.

“I was glad to see we were able to run the football,” Robinson said. “We were down an offensive lineman and we were still able to run the ball. We took a few shots down the field. It was nice to get the passing game clicking, too.”

The first points came on a nine-play drive that was capped when Stephon Kirksey found an opening and blasted in from 10 yards out.
The defense kept setting the table for the offense and gave Batson and company the ball two possessions later when it forced a Berea fumble inside the Bulldogs’ 10-yard line.

Taking over at the 7-yard line, Batson called his own number three times. On his third try, he found paydirt. Rivers Sherrill tacked on the point after to put Daniel ahead 14-0.

Another misfire set up the next points for the Columbia blue and gold. The Bulldogs were struggling to gain anything against the Lions’ defense, and on their third snap of the series, Daniel’s C.J. Scott picked off a pass and raced to the Berea 34 before he was dragged down.

The Lions’ offense went right to work. On the first play of the drive, Batson slung a hot pass to Carter Groomes, who was open along the sidelines. The wide receiver was never touched on his way in for a touchdown. Sherrill was again true, and the Lions cruised to the 21-0 win.
“We played six running backs, so it is still up in the air who will start,” Robinson said. “It is still an open competition. Our little JV back, Nick Taylor, came in last, and he might have run harder than any of them.

“I want our guys to respond to a challenge. I sure put the challenge to them today, and we played the way we were supposed to play. The defensive front played, and that is the key for us to be successful this year. We are going to have some bumps early, but we are going to be pretty good before it is all said and done.”

The jamboree action will continue this week, as the Easley Green Wave Football Jamboree is scheduled for Thursday ngiht and the Blue Flame Jamboree is set for Friday night.
At the Green Wave jamboree, Ben Lippen School will take on Carolina starting at 6:30 p.m., while Pickens will battle Southside at 7:15 p.m. Easley will get in its first game-type action at home under Windham when it takes the field against county rival Liberty at 8:30 p.m.
On Friday night, Seneca and Wade Hampton will tussle in the first half of action at the Blue Flame Jamboree, which will kick off at 6:30 p.m. Daniel will take on Pendleton in the second half, while Pickens will host Travelers Rest for the nightcap.

Daniel will also host its annual Daniel Day Jamboree next Friday, while the other three county teams will open their regular season on the same night, with Pickens traveling to Easley for their annual rivalry matchup and Liberty playing host to Crescent.

Check back in next week’s issue of The Courier for the “Football Frenzy” season preview edition.