Dragons Drop Home Opener Against Northwest Whitfield

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The Pickens Dragons had a bit of a disappointing game against the Northwest Whitfield Bruins on Friday night, as the Dragons lost their first home game of the season by the final score of 20-7. Fans were treated to a nice ceremony prior to the opening kickoff, as the inaugural class of the Pickens High Hall of Fame–Fred Anderson, Charlie Chastain, Steve Eubanks, Tommy Pye, and Chad Wiggington—were introduced on the field. Once the Hall of Fame festivities had ended, the current edition of the Dragons hit the field ready to play.

The Bruins won the coin toss to begin the game and elected to receive the opening kickoff, which meant that the Dragons defense would have quite a test to start the game. They passed this test with flying colors, as they allowed just one yard of offense and forced Northwest Whitfield into a quick three-and-out.

The Dragons then took possession of the ball on their own 27 yard line looking to make some big plays and fire up the home crowd but were unable to find any running room, which led to a three-and-out and a punt, which gave Northwest Whitfield the ball back on its own 28.

Unfortunately for Pickens, the Bruins got in a rhythm on offense during this drive, as they pieced together a 9 play, 72 yard drive that saw the team convert three third downs and score on a four yard run by #21 O’Shea Hill with 6:17 left in the first quarter of play.

The next Dragons’ possession started off with some promise thanks to a 39 yard pass from Tanner Brumby to Justin Hamrick on the first play of the drive that moved Pickens into Bruins’ territory for the first time, but a false start penalty and two incompletions bogged down the offense and led to another punt.

Another three-and-out stand by the Dragons’ defense gave the offense the ball back on the Pickens 48 yard line, which meant that the offense would have great field position.

It looked as if the team was ready to take full advantage of its spot on the field, as it quickly moved the ball to the Bruins’ 34 yard line. However, the offense was unable to take advantage and put points on the board, as a pass on fourth down fell harmlessly to the ground and gave the Bruins the ball back.

An outstanding stop on Northwest Whitfield’s first play of its next drive set up a 2nd and 21, which undoubtedly left the Pickens players pumped for another quick stop. However, that play was followed by what would prove to be the Bruins’ biggest play of the night, as quarterback Silas Ledford took the snap and quickly found Jalen Locket, who sneaked passed the safety and ran 76 yards to make it 14-0 with 3:32 left in the opening quarter.

The Dragons next offensive possession was a disappointing dud, and after gaining just one yard on three plays they were forced to punt again. As strange as it may seem, this turned out to be the most important series of the game for Pickens, as the punt by Tanner Brumby was muffed by the Bruins’ returner and recovered by the Dragons deep into Northwest Whitfield territory.

Needing just thirteen yards to punch the ball into the end zone, Dragons quarterback Tanner Brumby took care of it himself, following his blocks on two straight plays and cutting the score to 14-7 on a 5 yard scamper.

Following another three-and-out by the Bruins’ offense, the Dragons hit the field looking to tie the game up at 14. Things looked very bad after the first play of the drive, as Tanner Brumby’s pass attempt was intercepted at midfield and returned all the way to the 5 yard line, which was then moved back to the 19 thanks to an illegal block.

Now in a do-or-die situation, Dragons’ defender Jake Dean made an excellent read on Ledford’s next pass, intercepted the ball, and took it back to the Pickens 26 yard line. Although the drive following the interception ended after three plays, the fact that the Bruins were unable to score was pivotal in keeping the Dragons in the game.

The next Bruins possession looked a lot like the one that ended with the team’s first touchdown of the game, as the offense marched down the field all the way to the 2 yard line. However, the Dragons’ defense stood strong, as they held the Bruins out of the end zone and retained possession on the one yard line.

Pinned in their own territory, the Dragons’ next drive was focused mainly on just holding onto the football, which they accomplished. Although the drive was extended thanks to a holding penalty against the Bruins, the struggles in the passing game led to another stall-out, which meant Pickens would have to punt again with 1:56 left in the first half.

Northwest Whitfield’s focus on the next drive was solely on extending their lead prior to heading to the locker room, but tight coverage by the Pickens’ defenders led to another punt after six offensive plays. The Dragons’ next series was comprised of just running out the clock, and as the players headed to the locker room it they found themselves down by the manageable margin of 14-7.

Thanks to the Bruins’ decision to open the game with the football, the second half started with the appearance of the Dragons’ offense, which started on the 20 yard line thanks to a touchback. Despite some promising plays by Brumby and running back Shannon Brooks, a holding penalty put Pickens in a tough situation and forced another punt.

Aimed at putting even more points on the board, Northwest Whitfield hit the field ready to go and barely had any issue moving the ball, as they racked up thirty-five yards on seven plays to set up an impressive 41-yard field goal to increase its lead to 17-7 with 7:41 left in the third quarter.

The Dragons next drive started off with a big bang thanks to a trick play in which Shannon Brooks received the ball on a reverse and took off for a thirteen yard gain. This play seemed to spark the offense more than any other in the game, as they quickly added two first downs and thirty yards to their total for the game. As impressive as the drive was, a sack by the Bruins let all the air out of the Dragons, and a fourth and four play saw Pickens come up just short once again.

Following another stop by the Dragons’ defense, the offense took over with scoring on its mind. This looked like exactly what was going to happen, as Tanner Brumby and Company gained forty-four yards on twelve plays, which set the team up for a field goal after a pass on third down intended for Shannon Brooks fell incomplete. Unfortunately, the kick was no good, resulting in another missed opportunity for the home team.

Struggling to bail out the offense again and again, the Dragons defense did just that one more time, holding the Bruins to another field goal—this one from thirty-three yards out—on a drive in which a 25 yard double pass made it look as if Northwest Whitfield was ready light up the scoreboard in a big way yet again.

Down to just 7:32 left in the football game, the Dragons were desperate for some more points, but they just weren’t able to put enough big plays together to make it happen. After three more drives ended with no scoring, the game was over, as the Bruins had prevailed over Pickens by the final score of 20-7.
When it was all said and done, the Dragons ended the football game with 255 yards of offense: 151 yards coming via the running game and 104 as a result of the air attack. Tanner Brumby ended the game with 9 completions for 104 yards as well as 22 rushes for 96 yards and one touchdown. Shannon Brooks followed Brumby in rushing with 68 yards on 12 carries.

Next up on the schedule for Pickens is a game on the road against the Heritage Generals, who currently sit at 0-3 on the season. Last season’s matchup between these two teams saw the Generals win by the score of 49-34.

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