Friday the 13th was not kind to the Pickens Dragons this year, as the Dragons fought hard but could not overcome six costly turnovers in a 25-13 road loss at the hands of the Northwest Whitfield Bruins.
The opening coin toss saw the Dragons defer to the second half, which meant that the Bruins would start the contest with the first possession. The Bruins were hard to start on this drive, piecing together a twelve play, sixty-three yard drive that was culminated with a two yard rushing touchdown by Jacob Webb to give the Bruins a 7-0 lead with 8:34 left in the first quarter.
Pickens then responded with a long drive of their own that looked poised to end with a trip to the end zone, but a nice pass on third down to move the chains ended with a fumble, which was recovered by the Bruins on the Dragons’ 49 yard line. Handed another chance at putting points on the board, Northwest Whitfield obliged, and increased their lead to 10-0 thanks to a 35 yard field goal by Miguel Villa.
Ready to overcome the mistakes from the previous drive, the Dragons’ offense hit the field again and appeared to have found a rhythm only for this possession to end in the same manner as the one that proceeded it, as the Dragons put the ball on the ground once again. Fortunately for the offense, the defense made the first of several huge stops in the contest, forcing the Bruins in to a quick three and out that was highlighted by a six yard sack courtesy of Silas Lott.
Taking over on their own twenty yard line, Pickens finally got things clicking on this drive, which was highlighted by a 44 yard touchdown run by running back Shannon Brooks to close off a quick four play, eighty yard drive and cut the Northwest Whitfield lead to 10-7 with 8:17 remaining in the second quarter.
Another stand by the Dragons’ defense gave Pickens possession of the football, but unfortunately this drive stalled out, leading to a Tanner Brumby punt that gave the Bruins the ball back on their forty-five. This Bruins’ drive looked destined to end in the end zone, but fortunately Pickens made an outstanding play on defense, forcing a fumble and recovering it on the Pickens 17 yard line with 2:55 left in the half.
With time waning in the second quarter, the Dragons’ offense quickly moved down the field in an effort to cut into the Bruins’ lead, but unfortunately the drive stalled out on the Bruins’ 39 yard line, leading to a 10-7 deficit at the half for the Dragons.
Pickens started the second half with possession and a chance to take the lead or at the very least tie the game at ten points apiece, but mistakes were costly on this possession, as quarterback Tanner Brumby’s pass on third down was intercepted by Tevin McDaniel and returned to the Bruins’ thirty-six yard line. Although the turnover and the potential to be devastating, the Dragons’ defense once again held the Bruins in place, resulting in a five-play drive that ended with a punt that came to rest on the Dragons’ 21 yard line with 8:57 remaining in the third quarter.
Now with another shot at making some plays, Pickens soon repeated the same mistake that prematurely ended the previous drive, as Jamone Horne intercepted Brumby’s pass deep in Dragons’ territory. Despite another fine effort from the defense, Northwest Whitfield was unable to avoid giving up points on this drive, as the Bruins scored on a five yard run by Webb. The resulting two-point conversion made it a 18-7 game with 7:24 remaining in the third quarter.
Down but certainly not out of contention, the Dragons’ offense took to the field once again and quickly made so noise via some big runs by Brooks and fellow back Jake Coleman. However, disaster struck yet again, as Pickens fumbled the ball once again and gave the Bruins the ball back on the Northwest Whitfield forty-three yard line.
The Bruins had fifty-six yards of field in front of them at the start of the ensuing possession and would not take no for an answer, putting together a six-play, fifty-six yard drive that saw quarterback Caleb Shiflett call his own number for a ten yard touchdown to increase the home team’s advantage to 25-7 with 3:07 remaining in the third.
The Dragons and the Bruins would trade punts on each team’s next possession, which would lead to Pickens having another chance to make some noise on a drive that began deep in Northwest Whitfield territory thanks to a heads up play by Kyle West, who picked up a fumble on the Bruins’ punt and sprinted down the sidelines. Poised to score and cut into Northwest Whitfield’s lead, it appeared the Dragons’ luck had finally changed; that is, until Pickens reached the three yard line.
With just three yards separating the team from significantly closing the gap on their region opponent, Pickens subsequently fumbled on first and goal and turned the ball over to the Bruins for the sixth time on the night. Although the Bruins then proceeded to run a good deal of clock, the Dragons eventually forced a punt, which gave Tanner Brumby and Company the football on their own thirty-five with 5:25 left in regulation.
The Dragons next drive saw the team take all of the potential that the turnover-riddled drives earlier in the game and make the most out of it, gaining sixty-five plays on just eight plays and cutting into Northwest Whitfield’s lead on a three yard run by Brooks to make it a 25-13 contest with 3:26 remaining in the fourth (The Dragons’ extra point attempt was no good).
With very little time remaining in the contest, Pickens opted to try an onside kick following the Brooks’ score, but the team was unable to recover. the Bruins then held onto the football and ran out the clock, sending Dragons’ fans home with the sour taste of a 25-13 defeat.
Quarterback Tanner Brumby did what he could against a stout Bruins’ defense, completing ten passes for 121 yards and a pair of interceptions. Running back Shannon Brooks was a huge part in Pickens keeping the contest close, as he finished the game with twenty-three carries for 150 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
Dragons head coach Chris Parker was very candid following the game’s conclusion, saying
“We just have to get better. You can’t turn the ball over six times and expect to win. It’s amazing to me that it was as close as it was. Northwest did an excellent job. They were a reason for a few of those turnovers…They deserved to win tonight and we deserved to lose tonight, but we will get better and try to come back next week and be a little better off.”
Next up for the Dragons is a home matchup with the Heritage Generals. The Generals, who sit at 0-3 on the season and will be fresh off a 43-7 loss to the Cass Colonels, have a 3-1 record all-time against Pickens. The lone defeat came in last season’s meeting, when the Dragons traveled to Catoosa County and promptly handed Heritage a 45-0 defeat.