CENTRAL — The 2015 campaign has been one of “close but no cigar” at times for the Daniel Lions but a 28-24 home win over Pickens last Friday night might be just what the doctor ordered coming down the home stretch.
A season of hovering around the .500 mark is not what the Lions faithful are used to, but the overall performance against Pickens (3-5, 2-3) might help to assuage feelings in Central after the defense came up big late to preserve the win.
To the advantage of the Blue Flame, the first half was a low scoring affair with Pickens in the lead at the close of the first two quarters, 10-7. It wasn’t until the beginning of the third quarter that either team found any explosiveness on the offensive side of the ball. Daniel would do so first.
The Lions (3-5, 2-3) put up 14 unanswered points in the third behind the efforts of QB Ben Batson. Batson’s first strike was a 10-yard TD connection to C. J. Scott, giving Daniel its first lead of the night. Later in the third, Batson would strike again, hitting Carter Groomes for a 55-yard TD pass.
At the close of the third quarter it appeared Daniel might have put the game out of reach with an 11-point lead, but Pickens still had some fight left.
In the fourth quarter, the Blue Flame offense came to life with two quick scores. Gunner Covey plunged into the endzone from two yards out, but the two-point conversion failed. Covey would score again from four yards out after a Jamal Blythe interception, then would also be on the receiving end of the two-point attempt. Following Coveys duet of TD’s, Pickens had raced back out front to a 24-21 lead.
For Daniel, what looked like a game in hand had become a flashback of the 2015 season with 7:53 on the clock. Batson and the Daniel offense would respond. Breaking away from the defense, Batson would reel off a 43-yard scamper to the Pickens 32-yard line. It wouldn’t take long from that point for Batson to find Groomes once again for a 21-yard TD and the 28-24 lead.
Pickens mounted two threats with less than 2:40 on the clock. The first drive ended on an interception by Scott and the Lions while the last threat would end in the Daniel endzone with little time remaining. Tanner Stegall, in a last attempt to regain the lead, launched a soft pass into the endzone that floated past the outstretched hands of Covey, preserving the Daniel win.
Daniel travels to Walhalla this Friday and Pickens is on the road to face the Palmetto Mustangs.
Reach D. C. Moody at 864-855-0355.