The Pickens Dragons got the job done in White on Friday night against the Cass Colonels, as the team scored twenty-eight points in the first half and ruined a Cass comeback in the waning seconds with a goal line interception to win 28-26, giving Pickens a win in its first region game of the year.The Dragons opened the game with possession on their own 28 yard line, but were forced to punt after three quick plays. However, it didn’t take long for the defense to get the ball back, as Clay Lawson intercepted Colonels’ quarterback Brandon Etheridge’s pass deep in Dragons’ territory and successfully returned it to the Cass 44 yard line.
Motivated by the big play on defense, the Dragons then moved the ball forty-four yards on two plays—a 27 yard halfback pass thrown by Shannon Brooks to Jake Coleman and a 17 yard touchdown run by Tanner Brumby—to take a 7-0 lead over the Colonels with a little over seven minutes left in the first quarter.
The Colonels then responded with some big plays of their own, as they tied the game at 7 thanks to a 63 yard run by Etheridge on the third play of the drive.
The next drive for the Dragons echoed the one that opened the game, as the offense lost six yards on three yards and was forced to punt, but once again the defense bailed the offense out, as Pickens pounced on a fumble in the Colonels’ backfield and came out of the pile with possession on its own thirty.
Pickens then responded with an eleven play, 70 yard drive that saw five different Dragons touch the ball and ultimately ended with another touchdown for the road team, this one on a fourteen yard run by Shannon Brooks with 11:14 left in the second quarter.
Following consecutive three-and-outs by both squads, the Colonels got the ball on their own 37 with the intention of tying the game up; however, the Dragons’ defense had other plans in mind, as Eric Collins made two consecutive sacks to kill the Cass drive and force another punt, which was returned to the Cass 38 by Shannon Brooks.
The Dragons then hit the field with excellent field position and refused to be stopped, eventually scoring on a pass from Tanner Brumby to Justin Hamrick on third and five that Hamrick took twenty-eight yards to pay dirt, effectively extending the Pickens lead to 21-7 with 2:36 left in the first half.
The Dragons’ special teams unit made the most out of the kickoff following the Hamrick touchdown, as the Colonels’ return man fumbled the ball, leading to a recovery by the Dragons on the Cass 43.
Separated by less than half a football field from a comfortable twenty-one point advantage, the Pickens offense hit the field with the intent to score again, which it did on a heads up play by David Culbreth, who fell on a fumble in the end zone following a Tanner Brumby pass to Justin Hamrick, to give the Dragons a 28-7 lead with 1:15 left before halftime.
Colonels head coach Rick Casko must have sounded the alarm to his players following this Pickens touchdown, as the Cass offense came out in the two minute drill and quickly went 85 yards on just five yards to cut the Dragons lead to 28-13 (The Colonels’ extra point attempt was no good). Down to just six seconds left in the second quarter, Pickens chose to run out the remaining seconds and hit the locker room with a 15-point advantage.
Following the halftime intermission, the Colonels received the opening kickoff and returned it all the way to its own forty-five. In danger of allowing Cass to cut into its lead, the Dragons defense shined once again, as the Cass drive was one-and-done thanks to an interception by Ty Prather on the Pickens 41 yard line.
Geared for another big touchdown drive, Pickens tried to put together some big plays, but a hold on the first play of the drive following the interception put a damper on the team’s chances, and after just three plays the team was forced to punt the ball back to Cass.
Buried deep in their own territory, the Colonels couldn’t muster enough offense to put up more points on the board, which meant a punt after eight plays. However, Cass got second life thanks to a fumble on the punt, which the Colonels recovered on the Pickens 22 yard line.
Much to the dismay of the Cass crowd, the Dragons’ defenders refused to give up a touchdown on this drive, which led to a three yard loss for the Colonels on a fourth down play inside the five yard line and a big turnover on downs.
Although the Dragons successfully kept Cass out of the end zone, the turnover bug would bite the team yet again, this time on a second down play on the Pickens 10 yard line. Despite being put in incredibly difficult spots two drives in a row, the Pickens defense handled the Colonels’ offense yet again and caused another turnover on downs, this time on its own thirteen yard line.
Now playing in a sensed state of panic due to the turnovers, the next Pickens drive quietly went three-and-out, which led to a big punt return that gave Cass possession on the Pickens 13 yard line. Desperate for some points, the Colonels finally broke through the Dragons’ solid defensive wall with a seven play, thirteen yard drive that ended with a 1 yard touchdown run by Etheridge to make it 28-19.
In need of a two point conversion in order to make it a seven point game, the Colonels’ offense hit the field looking to break the plane of the goal line for the second straight play. However, they were unable to do, which left the team down by 9.
As if the previous turnover troubles weren’t enough, the Dragons fumbled the ball yet again on their first play following the Cass kickoff, and once again the Colonels recovered, this time on the Pickens 32.
Obviously gassed by its constant time on the field in the fourth, the Dragons defense just couldn’t stop the Colonels on this drive, and a 2 yard touchdown run by Keelyn Wilkey cut the Colonels’ deficit to 28-26 with 6:05 left in the fourth quarter.
Needing a positive drive in the worst way possible, Pickens took over possession on its own 24 yard line with a little under six minutes left in regulation and started moving down the field in a hurry, making it to midfield after four plays and into the red zone just three plays later.
Now with an opportunity to put the game away, the Dragons fought hard in Cass territory and appeared to have sealed the game with a five yard touchdown run by Tanner Brumby on fourth and goal, but a holding call took the points back off the board and moved the ball back to the fifteen.
Due to the fact that a field goal would give the team a useless five point advantage, Pickens opted to go for it on fourth down, but unfortunately Tanner Brumby’s pass fell incomplete, leaving Cass with 1:19 to work with.
With the game on the line, the Colonels began a drive that seemed intent on breaking Dragons’ fans hearts, highlighted by a quick hook-and-ladder that gave the Colonels an eighteen yard gain. After two more completions, Cass had worked its way down to the ten yard line with just twenty-three seconds left.
Thanks to a shaky kicking game, Cass elected to work for a touchdown, a move that would bite the Colonels in the end, as Brandon Etheridge’s pass was intercepted by Shannon Brooks, a play that would clinch the 28-26 win for the Dragons.
“Our guys needed to win a game like that, but we didn’t play very well”, Dragons head coach Chris Parker said following the game. “We found a way to win, so ultimately it’s a great win, but we’ve got to do a lot more work…sometimes you’ve got to win some ugly games. New England won a Tuck Rule game to get them going, Alabama won a game against a bad Tennessee team 12-10 a couple years ago, so we just have to find a way to win.”
The Dragons offense finished the game with 298 total yards, with 189 yards coming on the ground and 109 through the air. The Dragons’ defense did its part against the Colonels, allowing just 97 rushing yards with three sacks and forced turnovers in the victory.
Tanner Brumby led the Dragons in passing with 8 completions on 12 attempts for 82 yards and 1 touchdown; he also took 14 carries for 60 yards and 1 touchdown. Shannon Brooks got the job done carrying the football, as he finished the game with 17 carries for 122 yards and one touchdown.
The win over the Colonels moves the Dragons record to 3-2 on the season—the team’s best record through five games since a 4-1 start in 2006—and a 1-0 record in the 7-AAAA region.
Pickens’s next game comes on the road against the Cedartown Bulldogs, who are led by running back Nick Chubb, the state’s leading rusher. The Bulldogs are 4-2 and will be coming off a 35-27 loss to River Ridge.