By Geoff Preston
For The Journal
Throughout the season, Walhalla High School football coach Padgett Johnson has talked about how he wants his young team to grow.
On Saturday night, the Razorbacks had to learn through a loss, as a difficult third quarter resulted in Walhalla falling 53-32 to Easley on the road.
Still, Johnson wouldn’t let his team quit.
Walhalla (2-2, 1-1 Region I-4A) ran the final drive like a two-minute drill, culminating with quarterback Bryce Payne scoring on an 8-yard touchdown as the clock expired in a game that was pushed back a day due to the threat of inclement weather that never materialized on Friday night.
It might have seemed like a small victory, but it’s one Johnson said the team can build on.
“I looked out there, and I had three seniors on the field, two freshmen and a bunch of sophomores, and so every rep is critical,” he said. “If you didn’t have success overall, it’s important to have pockets of success that you can coach from. To see them do that and fight all the way to the end, I think that’s important.
“We don’t get to simulate a two-minute drill in full pads in practice against another opponent. To go down and score, it didn’t make a difference in the outcome of the game, but it’s a really good building block.”
It was a nearly 10-minute stretch at the end of the first half and through most of the third quarter that turned a tight game into a blowout at Easley.
Trailing 20-14 at the end of the second quarter, the Razorbacks were unable to keep Easley (1-1, 3-4) out of the end zone in the final minute. The Green Wave got the ball back to start the half, scored on their first drive and then forced a fumble on the ensuing kickoff.
After that, Easley quarterback A.J. Brown ran in one of his three rushing touchdowns from 3 yards out to make it 40-14. Even Walhalla’s high=flying offense wasn’t able to make up the deficit.
On top of that, Johnson said after injuries to his starting right guard and right tackle last week, he had many players playing on both lines.
“To Easley’s credit, they took advantage of it and did what they needed to do,” Johnson said. “The defense played about nine minutes in a row between the two halves, and that tired us out. We had so many guys going both ways because of all the injuries we have. We needed a stop here and there, and it’s a four-quarter game.”
Brown finished with 147 yards on 14 carries, while he went 9-of-16 passing for 230 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Running back Myles Martin added 17 carries for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
“We played well. We still have a lot of things we have to clean up from an execution standpoint, but I’m proud to be able to get a region win tonight,” Easley coach Jordan Durrah said..”When we do our job and execute, we can be really good and put up a lot of points.”
Walhalla quarterback Bryce Payne finished 22-of-42 passing for 395 yards and two touchdowns through the air, while he also scored two touchdowns on the ground and ran for 58 yards on 21 carries.
Both offenses had highly productive nights. Easley put up 539 yards, while Walhalla piled up 495 yards.
Johnson said the fast pace that the Razorbacks play with on offense might have put their defense in difficult situations at times, but it’s not something that’s going to change.
“I probably didn’t help our defense with the pace of the game, and early in the game we had some conversions we didn’t make,” he said. That’s what you’re doing with the way we’re playing this year. It’s kind of ‘live by the sword, die the sword,’ and it wasn’t our night. They did a good job being prepared for our two-point stuff, so we’ll have to come up with some different stuff, and we will.”
Walhalla will host Travelers Rest on Friday in a game that could put it into the playoffs, and Johnson said despite the setback on Saturday, he expects his team to be ready.
“All we can do is get better and get ready to go to work Friday night,” he said..” We have a big one with Travelers Rest. You win that one and you’re in the playoffs, so it’s a playoff game for us.”
Easley 53, Walhalla 32
WHS 8 6 12 6 — 32
EHS 13 13 21 6 — 53
EHS — Brown 71 run (Dacus kick), 7:30
WHS — Payne 1 run (Payne run), 4:58
EHS — Brown 1 run (run failed), 3:23
EHS — Clemons 26 pass from Brown (Dacus kick), 3:37
WHS — Barker 47 pass from Payne (run failed), 2:09
EHS — Martin 7 run (run failed), 0:46
EHS — Clemmons 29 pass from Brown (Dacus kick), 8:21
EHS — Brown 3 run (Dacus kick), 7:07
WHS — Robinson 1 run (run failed), 4:47
EHS — Davis 62 pass from Brown (Dacus kick), 4:33
WHS — Smith 21 pass from Payne (pass failed), 1:28
EHS — Martin 3 run (run failed), 8:28
WHS — Payne 8 run (no PAT attempt, game over), 0:00
First Downs 28 26
Total Yards 493 539
Rushes-Yards 39-98 39-309
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 1-1
Com-Att-Int 22-42-0 9-16-0
Passing Yards 395 230
Penalties-Yards 2-20 10-90
Punts-Avg. 1-30 2-24
RUSHING — Walhalla, Payne 21-58, McCurry 10-37, Robinson 8-3; Easley, A.J. Brown 14-147, Martin 17-100, Davis 7-33, Ad. Brown 1-29.
PASSING — Walhalla, Payne 22-42-0 395; Easley, A.J. Brown, 9-16-0 230.
RECEIVING — Walhalla, Smith 9-191, Barker 2-77, Easton 4-37, McCurry 3-36, Robinson 2-25, Oglesby 1-24, Shepard 1-5; Easley, Clemons 4-102, Davis 1-62, Swan 2-40, Brown 1-19, Martin 1-7.