Lion offense comes up empty in defeat

By Rocky Nimmons

CENTRAL — Disappointed. That word, more than any, best described the outcome of the Daniel Lions’ 14-0 loss to region leader Belton-Honea Path last Friday night.

Not many thought the Lions could hang with the hard hitting Bears, but hang they did. Daniel (4-4, 0-2 Region I-4A) put together a great effort on defense and kept the game close all night. But with an offense that just could not sustain a drive all evening, the Lions were shut out for the first time this season.

10-19 Page 1B.indd“I am proud of how the kids fought, I really am,” Daniel coach Jeff Fruster said after the game. “If you talk about taking a tough team to the wire, we did that tonight.”

Fruster said he was not going to be down about the loss.

“I liked the performance,” he said. “There was enough there to give us a chance, and that is all we are ever going to need.”

Fruster said he was very proud of his defense.

“That was a night-and-day difference from what we had been doing to what happened tonight,” he said. “I will take that as a win all day.”

But the loss complicates the Lions’ road to making the playoffs. The best they can do now is run the table and beat both Greenville and Pickens in their two remaining games in region play for a third-place finish. A loss to Greenville this Friday would set up a showdown the following week for the region’s last available playoff spot against Pickens. Either scenario would result in a long road trip.

The night did not start out well for the Lions’ offense, which turned out to be an omen of things to come. On the third snap of the opening drive, Daniel quarterback Ben Batson was pick off, with BHP taking over at its own 49.

10-19 Page 1B.indd

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Daniel’s Miles Turmon closes in on BHP quarterback Kameron Burton during their game Friday.

Great defensive play contained the explosive Bear offense, forcing them to punt shortly into the possession. For those who like hard-nosed smashmouth defense, the game was a dream, as neither team allowed an explosive play all night.

Maybe the biggest play in the game came on BHP’s fourth series of the evening. Starting at the Daniel 42-yard line following a nice punt return by Akyah Miranda, the Bears offense finally found the end zone on a two-play drive. First Bear QB Kameron Burton laced a pass through the Daniel defense to wideout Xavier Nance. The play covered 26 yards down to the Lions’ 16. O’Ryan Warren got the call on the second play and juked his way 16 yards to paydirt. Camden Bratcher hit the point after with 8:13 to play in the half, making the score 7-0. Those points were the only ones in the game for either team until late in the second half.

10-19 Page 1B.inddThe Lions’ offense finally got a chance on the BHP side of the field late in the first quarter as a shanked Bear punt put the ball in play at the BHP 43. Batson, who returned to the starting lineup after missing the previous week with an injury, managed to push his unit down to the Bear 20 on six plays. The biggest play of the drive was a 15-yard scamper by Batson on a scramble. Fruster decided to go for the yardage as his team faced fourth down and seven from the 20, but Batson could not connect with Brandon Peppers over the middle, losing the ball on downs.

The Bears’ offense was harassed all game by the tenacious Chris Barnes. The Daniel linebacker was all over the field disrupting play after play for the bears. His effort, along with good play up front by Miles “Boogie” Turmon, kept the Bears in punting formation the remainder of the half.

The second half saw both teams finally getting some production from their offenses. BHP got the ball first and produced a decent 10-play drive that went 58 yards. But this time it was Barnes and fellow linebacker Jake Venables who made the big hits. The drive fizzled when BHP was flagged for back-to-back penalties to set up yet another punt.

The Lions took control at their own 17 and chipped away against the Bears, moving 50 yards in 15 plays. The drive fizzled on the Bear 33 when Batson left the game following a hit and backup Noah Lupton missed wide receiver Isaac Weaver on a pass on fourth and eight.

BHP managed to add to its lead late in the contest, putting together a 96-yard drive that lasted 13 plays. The touchdown came following two nice Burton pass completions to Miranda that combined for 38 yards. The score was the result of a one-yard run by Burton to seal the deal with 4:01 to play, giving the Bears a 14-0 win.

“My hat’s off to BHP — they earned this win here tonight,” Fruster said. “I think our offense sputtered a little bit tonight. We had chances to capitalize and we didn’t. We have a young team, and you have to teach them to finish. That is what we are going through right now. We are just going to have to teach this team how to be better finishers.

“We had a lot of breaks go against us tonight. That is still no excuse. We are still working on the finer points of the game.”

10-19 Page 1B.indd

Rocky Nimmons/Courier
Daniel quarterback Ben Batson drops back to pass behind the blocks of offensive lineman Kahare Teasley (75) and running back Kiandre Sims.

Overall the loss hurt, but Fruster saw some good things from his team.

“We are continually finding bright spots on this team, and that is something you can hang your hat on,” he said. “I am not disappointed in this team by any means. We are still learning how to be a good team.”

This week the Lions will host the Greenville Red Raiders in their final home game of the season. A victory would go a long way to ensure the Lions get a berth in the 5A playoffs this season.

“Greenville is highly talented,” Fruster said. “They put a lot of points on the board. They have skill at every position. The schedule was made for me, so we have no pushovers. We are going to be in a dogfight every Friday night.”

The Lions will need a full house at Singleton Field to energize them for their final home contest.

“We want our stadium packed this Friday,” Fruster said. “We need all the support we can get. I want this community to really get behind these kids. I still feel the future is bright for this team, and they haven’t seen the best of Daniel High yet. That is what we are going to try to put on the field.”

The game with Greenville will kick off at 7:30 p.m. at Singleton Field.