After months of school closures, lockdowns, quarantines, and general isolation created by the pandemic, the excitement at Dragon Stadium was palpable for the season opener against Gilmer on Friday, Sept. 4. After the Pride of Pickens Band kicked off the night with the national anthem, the Dragons busted onto the field where they would overtake the Bobcats 17-8. Dragons take on Chattooga this Friday, Sept. 11 at Chattooga. Robin Dunn / Photo
Football is finally back in Dragon Country as Pickens played host last Friday to their rivals, the Gilmer Bobcats.
Both teams entered the first contest of the year after a summer riddled with changes, regulations, delays, and precautions. After both teams worked tirelessly just for the opportunity to have a football season, their wish came to fruition Friday night. The 2020 season kicked off after no spring football, modified summer workouts, and no scrimmage games. However, it took the Dragons no time at all to shake the rust off and jump out to the lead in one of north Georgia’s oldest rivalry games.
The Dragons entered the game having won the last six meetings between the teams. Despite the recent string of success, Pickens entered the game after graduating a large senior class, including several players who continued their playing careers into college. Eight new starters took the field on offense for the Dragons, led by returners Mykel Hand, Jarod Whitmore, and Sam Stout. All three had great performances on offense.
Defensively, Pickens also started eight new faces Friday night. The group played with a constant motor, holding the Bobcats in check offensively. Sy Chadwick led the big boys in the trenches, while Andrew Burrell and Chase Nelson led a group of new skill players.
The game kicked off with Pickens receiving the opening kick in great field position. The Dragons took the ball and marched right down the field, covering 63 yards on 9 plays. The drive was capped off with a 12 yard dash from Jarod Whitmore. The Dragons defense held up throughout the first quarter, forcing punts from both of Gilmer’s drives to start the game. To start the second quarter Pickens forced a fumble, and gave the offense great field position. After the drive stalled, Juan Sanchez connected on a 25 yard field goal to give Pickens a 10-0 lead. The offense failed to move the ball on their following drive and an arrant snap led to a safety, making the score 10-2 at the half.
In the second half of the game, the Bobcats came out swinging. Gilmer was able to score on a 39 yard pass that snuck in the endzone. This would be the first and only time the Bobcats would find the endzone all night. They attempted a two-point conversion to tie the game at 10 but were unsuccessful. The score would remain at 10-8 for just a short time before Pickens would expand on their lead.
Senior Andrew Burrell would pick off a pass as he dropped to the sideline in coverage. After the Gilmer turnover, the Dragons took over the ball at the 33 yard line.
On the very next play, freshman Sam Streicher would complete his first career touchdown pass. He found All-Region receiver Mykel Hand across the middle of the field for the score. The game would be controlled by the Dragons defense for the remainder of the night, and the score would remain 17-8 when the final horn blew.
Offensively, the Dragons rushed for 127 yards and threw for 69 yards. Sam Streicher was 5-10 in his first start for Pickens. Jarod Whitmore picked up where he left off in 2019, rushing for 107 yards and 1 score. Mykel Hand’s 32 yard score was the big reception of the night and sealed the deal for Pickens. On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore Kadyn Hampton led the team with 13 tackles. Chase Nelson and Kaleb Taylor both recorded 9 tackles a piece. As a whole, the Dragons defense only allowed 193 yards of total offense. Taylor and Kaleb Nicholson both recovered fumbles for Pickens, while Andrew Burrell recorded the lone interception of the night.
The Dragons will hope to build on this big-time rivalry win as they travel next week to take on Chattooga.