The Pickens Dragons suffered a disappointing loss on Friday night against the River Ridge Knights, giving up eighteen points in the fourth quarter in a 28-26 defeat that gave the Knights the #1 seed in the Region 7-AAAA subregion A and left the Dragons’ playoff chances in serious trouble.
Prior to the game’s kickoff was a series of festivities to honor the senior football players, cheerleaders, and band members in their last home game, which was comprised of each individual and their families being recognized as well as having their future plans announced.
Finishing off the pre-game was a nice moment with Pickens athletic director Kyle Rasco awarding beloved PHS student Cody Jones a football signed by the entire Dragons’ football team.
The Knights elected to kick off to start the game, which meant the Dragons’ offense would open the evening with a chance to make some noise.
Unfortunately, there was nothing doing on this possession, and after three plays Tanner Brumby lined up in punt formation, leading to River Ridge taking over on its own 46 yard line.
The Knights looked determined to score on their first possession of the game, but the Dragons’ defense buckled down after nine plays and forced a turnover on the Pickens 14 yard line.
Now in position to strike first, the Dragons made plays in both the passing game and the running game in a seven play, 86 yard drive that ended on a 19 yard touchdown run by Tanner Brumby to give the Dragons an early 7-0 lead.
Following a great stand by the Pickens defense that saw the Knights run three plays and gain a grand total of 2 yards, the Dragons’ offense took possession on its own 35 yard line with a chance to pad their lead. The team did just that on a 28-yard field goal by Jacob Godfrey, giving Pickens a 10-0 advantage with 8:28 remaining in the second quarter.
River Ridge’s offense looked ready to respond with points of their own on the next drive, but an incomplete pass on fourth down gave Pickens possession on its own 22 yard line.
While the Dragons had the chance to put together another scoring drive and take a commanding three possession lead, it wasn’t meant to be, as the first play of the drive was fumbled and recovered by the Knights. River Ridge made the most out of the turnover, scoring on its first play after the turnover on a 30 yard touchdown pass to make it 10-7.
The next Dragons’ possession showed some promise thanks to a big 20 yard run by Tanner Brumby on third down, but despite this big play it ended with a punt to the River Ridge 28 with just 51 second left in the first half.
River Ridge made the most of what little time was left in the second quarter, moving into Pickens territory to set up a 43-yard field goal by Brock Harris as time expired, tying the game 10-10.
The opening kickoff of the second half saw the Dragons take advantage of a fumble by River Ridge and recover the ball just 35 yards outside of the end zone.
Pickens proved to be prepared to take all the points the Knights would give them, adding three more points thanks to another field goal by Jacob Godfrey, this one from 21 yards out, to help Pickens claim a 13-10 lead with 10:05 left in the third quarter.
The next Knights’ drive saw the turnover bug bite River Ridge again, which meant the Dragons would have a short field in front of them yet again. This time the Dragons had six points in mind, which they achieved on a one yard touchdown run by Shannon Brooks to give the team a 19-10 lead (the extra point attempt was no good).
A River Ridge punt after just three plays of offense gave Pickens the ball on their own 27 yard line with 5:10 remaining in the third quarter and a chance to possibly put the game away.
Things were definitely looking up as far as the Dragons’ chances of winning were concerned after this drive, as the offense racked up 73 yards on ten plays and scored on a 20 yard touchdown run by Tanner Brumby to push the Pickens lead to 26-10 with only 0:48 remaining in the third quarter.
Pinned down with seemingly slim chances of making a comeback, River Ridge responded with a six-play, 62 yard drive that ended with a 10 yard touchdown run. The Knights’ two-point conversion was no good, which meant the score was 26-16 with 10:48 left in the fourth quarter.
The Dragons then pieced together what looked more and more like a game-clinching drive, moving the ball all the way to seventeen yard line before a pass interference call on fourth down ended the drive and handed the Knights the ball back on their own 32.
Now with another chance to cut the lead, River Ridge converted on fourth and three and then scored on a 53 yard touchdown pass three plays later to cut the Pickens lead to 26-22 with 3:00 left in the game (the Knight’s extra point attempt was blocked).
River Ridge then followed up the touchdown with an onside kick that the coverage team recovered with relative ease, giving the Knights possession on the Pickens 48-yard line.
It looked like all hope was not lost for Pickens at this point, as the first play of the Knights’ drive saw Zach McCoy force a fumble and Eric Collins recover the ball on the River Ridge 42-yard line with just 2:47 left to play.
Unfortunately, the time to celebrate arrived and quickly departed for Pickens due to a fumble on the play immediately following the River Ridge fumble, allowing the Knights another chance to deliver a dagger into the hearts of the Dragons and their fans.
River Ridge indeed delivered on this opportunity, putting together a quick six-play, 62-yard drive that was finished off with a 15-yard touchdown run to put River Ridge up 28-26 (this extra point was also blocked).
Facing seventy-six yards of field in front of them, the Dragons’ offense made a valiant effort at providing points of their own, advancing the ball all the way to the River Ridge 31-yard line, but a throw to the end zone on the final play of the game fell to the ground, signaling that the Knights had slayed the Dragons in a 28-26 thriller.
Pickens ended the game with 442 yards of offense, with 303 coming via the rushing game and 139 by the passing game.
Tanner Brumby had another solid night behind center, completing fourteen yards on twenty-one attempts for 139 touchdowns as well as carrying the ball sixteen times for 144 yards and two touchdowns.
Shannon Brooks made plays yet again on the ground, taking 24 carries for 121 yards and one touchdown.
Titus Henderson and Eric Justice verified their status as dangerous receiving threats, combining for 10 receptions and 101 yards.
The tough loss moves the Dragons’ overall record to 5-4, leaving the team on very thin ice as far as making the playoffs is concerned. Pickens sits at third in the subregion standings behind River Ridge and Gilmer, meaning that they will travel to Bill Chappell Stadium to face the Dalton Catamounts this Friday in the region play-in game. Dalton currently sits at 6-3, including a 14-10 victory over Southeast Whitfield on Friday night.