Two teams who made it to the 2014 state playoffs squared off Friday night at Viking Stadium, but the night belonged to the Pickens Dragons.
After trailing for all of the first half, Pickens outscored the Vikings 35-8 in the second half for a 52-28 victory.
In the first half, East Hall (0-2) busted out of the gate with senior running back Jiel Vargas scoring two touchdowns for a 14-0 lead.
On the first drive, the Vikings’ converted two fourth-downs, one on a quarterback sneak by Austin Parker, the other with a little help from a pass interference penalty by Pickens (2-0).
Senior Brock Griffin of East Hall picked off Pickens quarterback Marcus Byrd on the Dragons’ first drive, which set up one of Vargas’ rushing touchdowns.
Under the read-option offense, Pickens senior running back Chris Pittman answered with two touchdowns to tie the game at 14-14.
With the Vikings’ now on their heels, Parker countered with a 95-yard passing touchdown to receiver Markese Jackson to take the lead 20-14 going into halftime.
The Dragons committed three offensive holding plays in the second quarter, two of which cost them gaines of 20-plus yard and the third voiding a touchdown pass by Byrd.
However, Pickens came back with a chip on its shoulder. Byrd responded with a 55-yard touchdown run off the read-option to give the Dragons’ their first lead of the game.
With East Hall unable to answer offensively in the second half, the Dragons took advantage, and the momentum started to swing in their favor. Pittman followed with a 55-yard run of his own, setting up an easy 8-yard touchdown for Pickens to increase the lead to 38-20.
Parker threw another long pass to Jackson for a 65-yard touchdown to cut it to 45-27, but by then it was already too late for East Hall.
Over the course of the game, Pickens’ read option started to wear down the Vikings’ defense.
Dragons’ head coach Chris Parker said the system really works for his team.
“It (read-option offense) doesn’t always work out early,” Parker said. “But you just have to stick with it, and it worked to our advantage tonight.”
Pittman was proud of the way the offensive line created running lanes for him and the other running backs.
“We couldn’t do anything without our offensive line. When they (offensive line) create big holes, they give us big opportunities,” Pittman said.
Both teams have a bye week before they play again Sept. 18, when Pickens (now 2-0, 0-0 region) plays at home vs. the Johnson Knights and East Hall (0-2, 0-0 region) takes on the Jackson County Panthers.