Wave roll Woodmont in key region victory

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Easley senior Carter Wiles breaks away from the Woodmont defense during their game Friday night. Wiles had nine carries for 76 yards and two touchdowns in the game.

By Ryan Davenport
Special to The Courier

EASLEY — With the Green Wave needing a win to stay in position to earn a playoff spot, the Easley offensive line did its part to pave a smooth road in that direction.

That road was enough footing for the Wave to amass 336 yards rushing on the way to a 38-14 victory over the previously third-place Woodmont Wildcats (3-7, 1-3 Region I-5A). Woodmont falls to fourth place behind Westside, Hanna and Easley for the time being, with the Wildcats’ season now complete. Easley has one game remaining, a region matchup on the road at J.L. Mann this Friday. A win would wrap up third place for the Green Wave, while a loss would create a three-way tie for the final two playoff spots.

10-26 Page 1B.inddIn the final home game for Easley and its 25 seniors, senior Will Drawdy took advantage of the work of his offensive line, rolling up 244 yards rushing and finding the end zone once. Senior Carter Wiles saw his first action at fullback and ticked off 76 yards with two touchdowns. Senior Derrick Phillips also rushed for a score, while senior Bralan Fuller added a receiving touchdown.

“This was a great way for our seniors to go out at home,” Easley head coach John Windham said. “I am very proud of those guys. They are very deserving.”

The win was not quite as easy as the final scoreboard, rushing yardage and 430 yards of total offense might indicate.

The Wildcats made great strides forward at times during the 2016 season, a process that continued on Friday night. Woodmont opened with an 11-play drive over the first four minutes of the game, running seemingly at will until stalling at the Easley 11-yard line. The Green Wave defense came to life, with Dylan Lyda and Austin Morgan breaking into the Wildcat backfield on first and second down for losses of four and eight yards. A 16-yard completion moved Woodmont to the 7-yard line, but on fourth down, Easley senior Kaleb Dicks stopped receiver Marshall Gilbert at the 5 to end the threat.

Easley wasted little time converting the opportunity. Drawdy broke of runs of 27, 30, three and 26 yards before giving way to Phillips, who danced through the middle of the interior from nine yards out for the evening’s first score. Nathan Baker’s extra point put the Wave ahead 7-0 with 6:21 remaining in the first quarter.

A Woodmont punt set the Green Wave up at midfield moments later. Drawdy broke away for a 50-yard jaunt to the end zone, but an Easley lineman was called for a penalty and negated the brilliant run. One play later, quarterback Weston Black’s pass was intercepted by Woodmont’s Isaiah McCullough at the Wildcat 41.

10-26 Page 1B.inddWith the swing in momentum, the Wildcats struck quickly. Quarterback Cole Fendley passed to Keyshun Kilgore, who finished the evening with 137 yards receiving, for a gain of 39. Two plays later, Giaonn Klugh bulled straight ahead and carried an Easley defender into the end zone from the 12 to tie the game at 7-7.

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Easley senior Will Drawdy sprints away from a Woodmont defender on Friday night. In his final home game, Drawdy racked up 244 yards on 24 carries to lead the Wave to a win.

With Easley needing desperately to shift the momentum, the offense came through. The Wildcats stuffed the running game on the first three plays, but the Wave took a gamble on fourth down. Fuller hauled in a Black pass on a quick slant for 29 yards, but not before bobbling it twice, to keep the drive alive and move the ball to the Woodmont 24. Wiles capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run, with Baker’s kick putting the Wave back on top 14-7.

The defenses stood tall until the 7:01 mark of the second quarter. Wiles busted loose for a gain of 11. Fuller then slipped behind the defense, where Black found him all alone to complete a 54-yard scoring pass to extend the lead to 21-7.

The Wildcats did not go away quietly. Their offense managed four first downs over the next 5:20 in the midst of a 14-play drive before another senior stepped up for Easley. Sean-Thomas Faulkner read a pass play perfectly and made a leaping interception of a Fendley pass at the 5-yard line to thwart the Wildcats momentum and leave the Green Wave leading 21-7 at halftime.

“The defense really stood tall when we needed them,” Windham said.

The Wildcats came out of the halftime break without libebacker Davonne Bowen, a South Carolina commit who had a relatively quiet first half.

10-26 Page 1B.inddEasley exited the break and drove to the Woodmont 17, but two quarterback sacks and a penalty forced the Wave to punt from the 38.

The Green Wave then caught a big break. Deonte Luster ran for 10 yards on the first play of the Wilcats’ possession, but coughed up the football. Although it appeared Luster was down by the time the ball came loose, Faulkner recovered the football to set the offense up at the Wildcat 21.

The Wildcat defense held its ground. Six rushes moved the Wave as close as the 6-yard line, but Easley was forced to settle for a field goal. Baker’s 23-yard attempt split the uprights to extend the lead to 24-7 with 5:12 remaining in the third quarter.

Easley reached Woodmont territory on the next possession, but two incompletions ended the drive and gave the Wildcats hope as the fourth quarter began.

The Wildcats made it hurt. Klugh carried three times and picked up another first down. On second and six, Fendley tossed to inside receiver Garrett Willis in the backfield. Willis passed 40 yards downfield to Kilgore, who crossed the field and outran the defense to complete the double pass for a 65-yard touchdown. With 10:26 to play, Woodmont had cut the lead to 24-14.

Drawdy and Wiles took over to put the game away. The two split six carries on a six-play drive, with each breaking runs of 20 or more yards, before Wiles scooted in from the 1-yard line to make the score 31-14 with 7:48 remaining.

Woodmont maintained its determination. The Wildcats managed nine plays on their next possession, aided by a pass interference call that converted a fourth and 13. After reaching the Easley 38, Faulkner intercepted a Fendley pass, but he caught the ball just out of bounds. On fourth down, Fendley’s pass was knocked down by the Easley defense.

10-26 Page 1B.inddJust more than a minute later, Drawdy broke three tackles on a 48-yard run to paydirt to cap an exciting senior night. Baker’s fifth extra point put the Wave ahead 38-14.

Kerry Gilstrap/Courier
Easley’s Sean-Thomas Faulkner returns an interception during the Green Wave’s win over Woodmont on Friday night.

“What a great team win,” Windham said. “When Will gets a seam, he is gone. He has legit speed. Our line really came through.”

Easley (4-5, 1-2 Region I-5A) will travel to J.L. Mann Friday night. A win gives the Wave sole possession of third place. J.L. Mann is 1-8 overall and 0-3 in region play after falling to Woodmont 21-7, Westside 37-9 and Hanna 63-7 in their previous three games.

“It’s a big game for us,” Windham said. “We’ve got to come ready to play every week. J.L. Mann has good players just like every team in our region. We’re going to go out and have a good week of practice to get ready.”