Laurens destroys Lions in jamboree

By Rocky Nimmons

CENTRAL — There is still a lot of work to be done for the Daniel Lions following Friday night’s Daniel Day Jamboree debacle at Singleton Field, which saw the [cointent_lockedcontent]Laurens Raiders lay the smackdown on the Columbia blue and gold.

John Bolton/ Seen here carrying the ball Friday night against Laurens, senior Stephon Kirksey has wrapped up the Lions’ vacant running back spot, Daniel coach Randy Robinson said.

John Bolton/
Seen here carrying the ball Friday night against Laurens, senior Stephon Kirksey has wrapped up the Lions’ vacant running back spot, Daniel coach Randy Robinson said.

The Lions turned the ball over five times in the two-quarter scrimmage, allowing the Raiders easy points on their way to a 28-0 shellacking of the home team.

The Lions have had moments of brilliance in preseason scrimmages but have also had times where they looked like they still needed lots of work, while Laurens, meanwhile, looks to be a contender in AAAA.

“Laurens has a good football team,” Daniel coach Randy Robinson said following the jamboree. “I don’t want to give any excuses. I think Laurens is a physical football team, and they are going to win a lot of games. They are talented.”

For the Lions, Robinson said he thought the struggles are mostly mental.

“It is all between our ears right now,” he said. “We can get it going for a little while and all of the sudden we lose our composure. We just have to work on improvement.”

What Robinson said the Lions need most is for this year’s seniors to step it up and play like other classes have traditionally at Daniel.

“Eventually these seniors are going to listen to me,” he said. “I have seen the good and the bad through the years here. I keep telling them in practice our intensity is not enough. You can only make them go so hard, and they won’t push themselves like our kids normally do. They have to agree to do that in practice.”

Robinson said with a certain disappointment that bad things happen if you don’t go full speed in practice.

“We saw that tonight with the fumbles,” he said.

The scrimmage was out of control from the very beginning, as on the Lions’ third snap, sophomore quarterback Ben Batson faded back and looked for wide receiver Carter Groomes, slinging the pigskin upfield only to have it snatched from the air by Laurens’ Zed Anderson. Anderson returned the ball to the Daniel 14-yard line. The Lion defense stiffened and played hard, halting the Raiders and forcing a turnover on downs at the 6-yard line.

The Lions continued to sputter offensively and punted the ball away after losing two yards on three snaps.

Again the Daniel defense looked tough and forced another Laurens punt.

“We are getting closer defensively,” Robinson said. “We basically changed defenses last week, so I am not going to panic defensively. We are in a better scheme now, and I think our kids are confident. We are playing faster.”

The hard play of the defense was for naught, as the Lions gave the Raiders a cheap one on the first snap of their next possession. Starting at their own 27-yard line, Batson and company went to the air. The young signal caller, however, was picked off by Laurens’ Ceris Statom, who snatched the ball and took it to the house for the first points of the contest. Irwin Angeles added the extra point with 6:14 to play in the first period, giving the Raiders a 7-0 lead.

The crowd knew their Lions were in for a long night as Daniel again turned the ball over on the next offensivee play. This time it was Isaac Weaver who lost his handle on the ball, with Laurens recovering at the Lions’ 17-yard line.

It took only two plays for the Raiders to add to their point tally. Both plays went to running back Troy Dendy. The first went for 10 yards and the second cover the last seven to paydirt. Angeles added the PAT with 5:59 to play in the first period, giving the Raiders a 14-0 advantage.

The Lion faithful looked shellshocked, but the disastrous night was far from over. On Laurens’ next series, the Raiders pushed the ball deep into Daniel territory again, reaching the 6-yard line. There the drive stalled, and Angeles was called on for a 23-yard field goal attempt. The kick, however, never had a chance as Daniel’s Peter Cote slipped through the line and blocked it, giving the Lions’ offense the ball at their own 14.

Starting runner Stephon Kirksey looked great on the drive, picking up 21 yards on three carries, but again the turnover bug bit when Batson rolled out and hit Groomes with a pass over the middle. Groomes took a shot and coughed up the ball. The Raiders were back in business at the 40-yard line.

It only took two plays for Laurens to get into the end zone — the first a 33-yard pass from Raider quarterback Tory Jackson to wide receiver Kezario Whitmore, followed by a 27-yard scamper by Dendy for a touchdown with 47 seconds left in the first period. Angeles tacked on the point after, pushing the lead to 21-0.

The final points of the night came with 3:22 left to play to cap a six-play, 65-yard drive by the Raiders. The touchdown was the result of a nine-yard run by running back Jamarious Mack. Angeles’ PAT was true to give Laurens its final 28-0 margin.

“Laurens is a pretty good team, and they hit a couple of long balls on our defensive backs, but they are 6’3″ and can play,” Robinson said. “That is something we can work on and we can cover better.”

The Green Wave of Easley are up next up and will come to Central for the Lions’ season opener on Friday.

“Easley is going to come in here, and they are big and physical, too,” Robinson said. “We are going to have to realize we are not going to be the biggest team in any game this year, but that doesn’t mean we can’t outfight them and outhustle them and outplay them and that is what we will have to address.

“Our team is going to learn a hard lesson, and we are going make them learn those lessons until they learn how to take care of business in practice. It is a work in progress, and until we play West-Oak to start the region, we are going to be moving people around until we get the right combination.”

Robinson said the only solution for the offensive miscues is to work harder in practice.

On the bright side, Robinson did seem to finally find his starter at running back in Kirksey.

“Kirksey has kind of stepped it up and took that job and ran with it,” Robinson said. “He ran physical tonight and ran hard.”

Friday’s game with Easley will start at 7:30 p.m. at Singleton Field in Central.