Pickens ran its offense efficiently in the first half but had to thwart Southside’s comeback attempts en route to a 41-18 Peach Blossom AAA win Firday night.
The victory improves the Blue Flame to 5-5 overall and 4-3 in the region, earning the fourth playoff spot from the Peach Blossom. Pickens will visit the champion of Region 4-AAA.
“We’re glad we qualified,” said Pickens coach Chad Seaborn. “By no means are we happy just to be in. We hope we are playing our best football. Hopefully we got enough good to build off of tonight.”
The Tigers fall to 4-6 and 3-4 and will have to wait to see if they can get one of two at-large playoff berths in the Upstate.
The Blue Flame saw a four-touchdown lead dwindle to nine points before Angus Anderson ran 33 yards for a touchdown and Mason Covey added a 12-yard scoring run in the game’s final 5:12.
Pickens built its early lead by registering touchdowns on each of its first four possessions. The first drive came after Tanner Saunders intercepted a pass at the Pickens 34.
Gunner Covey ended a 66-yard drive with a 1-yard run at 4:28 of the first quarter.
Older brother Mason Covey, the Pickens quarterback, added touchdown runs of 1 and 29 yards in the second period.
Pickens’ Austin Clark then recovered a fumble on the kickoff, setting up the Blue Flame at the Tigers 15. Antron Wakefield scored on a 2-yard run, and Pickens led 27-0 at halftime.
Southside got its offense going at the end of the first half, driving 67 yards to the Pickens 11 but failed on a last-second pass into the end zone.
“We made some mistakes early on the veer,” Southside coach Julius Prince said. “We made some plays (late) to get us close.”
Benefiting from two 15-yard penalties against Pickens, the Tigers scored on their first possession of the second half. Lutrell Dallas scored on a 2-yard run to make it 27-6.
Dallas raced 41 yards for another touchdown just before the end of the third quarter. Pickens led 27-12 after three.
“He put together a second half for us,” Prince said .