Last-second kick lifts Wave past Greenville

By Ryan Davenport
For The Courier

EASLEY — Injuries, 90 yards in penalties and Greenville’s knack for big plays were not enough to stop the Easley Green Wave on homecoming against the Greenville Red Raiders. One kick was all it took to help Easley overcome a host of seemingly insurmountable issues and walk away with its third victory of 2016.

Nathan Baker’s 30-yard field goal with less than 15 seconds remaining handed the Red Raiders their first loss of the 2016 season, securing a 30-28 comeback win for the Green Wave.

Baker’s kick was the deciding factor, but it was the Wave’s potent rushing attack that controlled the outcome. Will Drawdy dominated with 236 yards on 25 carries, including two touchdowns. Derrick Phillips slipped through numerous tackles for 48 yards on eight rushes before exiting the game with an injury early in the second quarter. The backbreaker was Sean-Thomas Faulkner, who relieved Weston Black at quarterback to direct an option-based attack with 13 carries for 116 yards, most on the game-winning fourth-quarter drive that culminated with Baker’s kick.

9-21 Page 1B.inddThe Green Wave played without linebacker Caleb Hill, typically the center of their pass rush efforts with a non-stop motor and nose for the football. Drawdy was shaken up and left the game for a short period in the fourth quarter, a potentially devastating blow with Phillips already out of the lineup. Star receiver Bralan Fuller spent most of the evening focusing his efforts on defense in an attempt to contain the Red Raiders’ deadly contingent of receivers. Further compounding matters, Faulkner helped carry the load at quarterback in addition to his usual role as the ball-hawking safety who rarely misses a play on special teams. Easley stood tall and fought through it all.

Easley put up the evening’s first score when Black passed to a wide-open Carter Wiles for 53 yards with 6:35 to play in the opening quarter. Baker’s extra point gave the Wave a 7-0 lead.

Greenville countered quickly. After the teams traded fruitless possessions, Red Raider quarterback Davis Beville completed a 56-yard pass to Kaelin Braswell, who outran the defense to finish off the one-play drive. Easley seemingly caught an early break when Jamal Moore sprinted in from the left side to block the extra point attempt, leaving the Green Wave with a 7-6 lead with 2:57 to play in the first quarter.

Easley’s next possession looked promising, as two big runs by Phillips carried the Wave to the Greenville 34 before the drive stalled with two incompletions to turn the ball over on downs.

Faulkner made his first appearance under center on the Wave’s following possession, eventually keying the scoring drive by breaking a 56-yard keeper. Drawdy followed with his first score of the night, taking a sweep seven yards to put Easley ahead 14-6 with 6:34 remaining in the first half.

Unfortunately for the Green Wave, the Red Raiders quickly reclaimed the momentum. An incompletion and a run that barely reached the line of scrimmage seemed to have Greenville on its heels. Beville’s third-down pass into double coverage was well behind 9-21 Page 1B.inddthe intended target, but receiver Tydricus Hellams came back and outleapt both defenders for the catch before racing the remainder of the 80 yards for the score. Braswell ran straight ahead to complete the two-point conversion. Just like that, the game was deadlocked at 14-14.

Easley’s next possession ended quickly with three incompletions and two dropped passes. Greenville then drove to the Green Wave 1-yard line with a spark from backup quarterback DaVonte Blakely and another highlight-reel catch from Hellams. Jahmein Dendy attempted an over-the-top dive into the end zone, but the football rolled loose and the Green Wave recovered in the end zone. Greenville was not pleased with the call, but the officials’ judgement stood and the Wave caught a big break.

Twenty-five seconds later, Drawdy broke loose and blew past the Red Raider defense for a gain of 72 yards and his second touchdown with 1:40 left in the first half. The 21-14 lead looked like it would carry into the break, but Easley was not quite finished. Faulkner intercepted a Blakely pass and returned it 40 yards to the Greenville 46. Black hooked up with Fuller to move the Wave into potential field goal range, but Baker’s 45-yard attempt was barely outside the right goalpost despite having ample distance. Still, the Wave’s 21-14 lead seemed to have lots of momentum behind it.

9-21 Page 1B.inddAt halftime, Easley senior Brinae Smith was crowned homecoming queen, much to the delight of the Green Wave faithful.

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Brinae Smith was crowned 2016 Easley Homecoming queen at halftime of Friday night’s game against Greenville.

The momentum shift was short-lived. Blakely completed all five of his pass attempts in the opening drive of the second half, the final completion a 33-yarder to Hellams to knot the score at 21-21 with 8:29 to play in the third quarter.

Easley bounced right back behind the efforts of Drawdy, burning up nearly four minutes as Drawdy ran seven times for 59 yards to lead the Wave to the Red Raider 12. On second and four, Black mishandled a snap from center and Greenville recovered.

9-21 Page 1B.inddThe Red Raiders took advantage. Dendy, who rushed for more than 300 yards a week earlier, took control and drove Greenville to the Easley 37 with runs of eight, 13 and four yards. His final run of the drive was good for the final 37 yards to give Greenville a 28-21 lead at the 2:15 mark of the third quarter.

Easley’s Nathan Baker made the kick of a lifetime on Friday, nailing a 30-yard field goal in the game’s waning seconds to lift the Green Wave to a 30-28 homecoming win over Greenville.
Kerry Gilstrap/Courier

The Wave caught another big break on Greenville’s next possession. Kaleb Dicks stepped in front of a Blakely pass and returned the pick 34 yards to the 48, though a personal foul penalty pushed the starting offensive spot back to the 34. Drawdy’s big night continued with runs of eight, three, 23, and 26 yards to take the Wave to the Greenville 3. It took three plays before Quenten Phillips finally bulled into the end zone from the 1-yard line. The excitement was tempered when the extra point snap was over the holder’s head, leaving the Red Raiders with a 28-27 lead and 7:57 remaining in the game.

9-21 Page 1B.inddGreenville’s offense could not sustain the momentum and punted after a quick three-and-out. Two Drawdy runs moved the Wave to the 41, but Drawdy was forced to exit with an injury. Faulkner then returned as the quarterback, a decisive move on a decisive drive. Faulkner’s designed and also read-option keepers methodically moved the Green Wave offense, with gutsy runs by a determined Faulkner resulting in two huge first downs. Drawdy was able to return, but it was Quenten Phillips who came up big with a game-saving two-yard run on fourth and two with just more than a minute remaining. Three Faulkner rushes led the Wave to the Greenville 10. Black returned for one play, though his only pass attempt was caught by Carter Wiles well out of bounds in the end zone. On third and goal, with just 15 seconds left on the clock, Baker hurriedly entered the game, lined up for the 30-yard field goal and split the uprights.

Greenville did move the ball past midfield quickly, but a Hail Mary pass attempt was fittingly intercepted by Faulkner to close out the victory.

Easley (3-3) will host T.L. Hanna this Friday at 7:30 p.m., while Greenville (4-1) will entertain Pickens.