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Pelion Panthers show huge heart in homecoming win over Columbia Capitals

Pelion, SC (Paul Kirby) – Dan Holland’s Pelion Panthers left their hearts on the field Friday night after beating the Columbia Capitals by one point to win their 2017 homecoming game. When all was said and done, the score was Panthers 21, Capitals 20 as the clock ran out.

I could spend a great deal of time going through this game play by play, but the ending would be the same, Pelion’s boys played with a greater desire to win. The Panthers played their shining stars, who performed as such, surrounded by a group of average, young kids who are just working HARD together to bang it out play after play on the line of scrimmage. Together, the two need each other, and Friday night, it was never more apparent.

Let’s talk about those Panther super stars. The first name off your lips would have to be Dayrun Keith. When Pelion has the ball, or even when the Capitals are plugging away at Pelion’s defense, the play by play announcers could put on a looped recording that just said, “Dayrun Keith on the play,” and go grab a snack. Keith is a star on offense, defense, and hey, he might be the one that keeps the team’s laundry sparkling white and smelling spring fresh by handling the washing too! He’s a multi-talented standout that was all over the field making plays. From running back to wide receiver, from quarterback to tackle, this kid played almost the entire 60 minutes without ever taking his foot off the floorboard; a true testament to a player with a heart that must be the size of a Mack Truck! He started off with a 41-yard run early on after the ball was put in his hands by Pelion’s current quarterback, senior Alex Conner. From there it was on!

Let’s talk for a moment about Conner at QB. He’s not the most talented playmaker, the best passer I’ve seen in years, or the most talented scrambler since Deshaun Watkins led the Tigers to the National Championship. He’s just consistently playing hard, bashing it out again and again, with that heart I’ve been speaking of showing play after play. Conner didn’t start the year with his hands under center, but since being given the chance share that responsibility and to end up there, he’s given 100%, and it’s made a difference in Pelion’s performance and season. He’s the kind of QB every coach would love to have; he gives his best with the natural ability he has, and who could ask for more?

Let’s move on to PHS’ #23 Jeremiah Green. Green is a star packed with speed, hands like glue, and ability to play either side of the line also. This kid also has a huge desire to win for his team, and his family cheers loudly during every game from the stadium seats. He set rushing records during the season’s first game against Calhoun County and he’s continuing to make plays that put points on the board.

During one of many of the game’s plays, Dan Holland had Dayrun Keith playing as QB when he connected with PHS’ #3 Ethan Davis, to put Pelion in position for Keith to scramble in a play on a QB keeper a play later to put the Panthers on the board. Although the PAT was missed,leaving the score 6-0 early on, this really set PHS on the way to the win.

Let’s not forget Pelion’s defense because what a D it is! When these kids are playing together, they limited the Caps' ability to move on the ground or in the air. After Pelion scored and CHS had their chance, the defense held them to limited gains that finally forced them to try for a field goal. Enter Dayrun again who blocked that kick. It was picked up by a Pelion player who roared back down the field for something like the 36-yard line. Although the CAPS eventually ended up with the ball back, scored, and made the PAT to bring the score to CHS 7, PHS 6, the Panthers played on!

By halftime, Keith and company had put the Panthers back across the goal-line several times, making the score PHS 21, CHS 7.

As the second half started, it was more of the same from the first. The Capitals did make some improvements at the half, and their offense was able to move the ball with sheer size, a basket of plays that worked when they tried them time and again, determination, and a few players that are the size of a truck, smashing over and over again into the Pelion defensive line.

The CAP's #45, senior DreQuan Goodwin, who plays both at middle linebacker, and fullback, is 6’ 1” and 225 lbs. When he got that 225 lbs. up to speed and moving, he could advance the ball on the ground.

Their quarterback could throw, although there were times he couldn’t seem to keep the ball out of the hands of Pelion, and was successful doing some scrambling. He also was able to connect with #22 Johran Broadnax, a senior wide receiver and strong safety (6’ 0” and 175 lbs.), and put the ball in the hands of #4 Thomas Green, a junior outside line-backer and wide receiver (5’ 9” and 172 lbs.), they did score.

Eventually, after the Panther’s lack of depth began to show deep in the second half and they were obviouslty gassed, the CAPS had played their way back to a point that they had a chance to win or tie with just a few minutes left in the game.

This brings to mind another Pelion standout. The CAPS' last TD was nearly plucked, nah, wrestled really, from the arms of the CHS receiver by Pelion’s Pryce Whitten. Whitten started the year as quarterback, but was changed to receiver by the PHS coaching staff, never losing his smile, never losing his leadership qualities, and certainly never losing his desire or heart to play as team with his teammates.

Whitten, like most of Pelion’s other key playmakers, is playing both sides of the ball at times. Whitten nearly broke up the Caps' last successful offense by literally latching onto the ball and not letting go, nearly snatching it from the arms of the CHS receiver. The ref almost had to pry the ball from his arms, even after the whistle blew the completion dead. He wanted that ball, and more importantly, he didn’t want the CAPS to score. Whittle’s little frame literally lifted the receiver off the ground, and for lack of a better word, body slammed him with it. He has a heart, a spirit that I don’t think can be dampened no matter the situation. He plays with 110% effort, and a heart that I can’t imagine how it even fits in his body.

After that TD, I was sure that CHS’ coach would try to play for the win by attempting a 2-point conversion, but in fact, he had his kicking team come on the field to kick for the tie. Dayrun Keith, playing once again on Pelion’s D, got in the kicker's face, made him shank the kick which went UNDER the upright, leaving the score at PHS 21, CHS 20! Time ran out and the Panthers won the Super Bowl! Excuse me; I got a little carried away there, but really it was that exciting.

The Panther’s standouts sound great, and they are, but they’d be nothing, not squat, without their teammates! Their o-line is awesome, holding the Caps on their side of the line of scrimmage play after play.

PHS’ defense broke up play after play. They made several key interceptions, kept pressure on the QB, and supplemented those kids with the Panther’s logo that do have tons of natural talent, something you can’t teach.

PHS Head Coach Dan Holland said it best in his post-game interview. “We have depth problems for sure, but we got some freshmen coming up with skills and heart too.” Holland had to play a number of those first-year kids by the end of the fourth quarter, and they held when it was important. In referring to the CAPS Holland said, “We’ve been playing these kids (CAPS), mostly seniors, for the past four years, and we beat them tonight with our younger, less experienced, and smaller team.We’re going to have to get and stay healthy, but man these kids play with their hearts!” You can tell this man, this staff believes in these kids! It's a real David and Goliath story, and Holland's got David and his Pelion army working well when they need to be.

Surely to really hang with some of the other teams in their class and division, Pelion will have to add to that depth. Their Dayruns, Jeremiahs, Ethans, and, Bryces wouldn’t be anything without those no name kids that are making their plays too. But, those backups are there, in the development phases.

Maybe I’m just overly optimistic, maybe i drank the Kool-Aid, but I really believe that Pelion has some exciting games and success in the years ahead!

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Call Paul Kirby

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