By Johnny Falduto of Friday Night Final - only on The ROAR
The defending state champion Daniel High School Lions (1-0) opened the 2022 regular season with a dominant 51-21 Week 0 victory over Greer High School (0-1) at Singleton Field on Friday night.
The Lions got off to a quick start on their first drive, with senior Jaylen Brown-Wallace on the receiving end of quarterback Blaine Simons’ first touchdown pass of the season, putting Daniel up 7-0 just over a minute into the first quarter.
Simons, making his first career start for the Lions, had big shoes to fill at the quarterback position following the graduation of 2x Gatorade Player of the Year and current Clemson preferred walk-on Trent Pearman. Never seeming to let the pressure get to him, Simons would finish the game 14/20 for 267 yards and 4 passing touchdowns, as well as add one touchdown on the ground. “Blaine is a gamer, for sure,” said wide receiver Eli Merck, “I had been telling him all week that he’s the man and he went out there and showed it.”
A Greer safety and the second of Simons’ four passing touchdowns, a 70-yard score by Misun Kelley, gave the Lions a 16-0 advantage at the midway point of the first quarter. The Yellow Jackets would finally get on the board with sophomore Ladiannian Martin’s lone touchdown of the game, but a Simons quarterback sneak would extend Daniels’ lead to 23-7 early in the second.
The first of Greer sophomore quarterback Kaden Rowland’s two passing touchdowns came midway through the second quarter on a 5-yard connection to Chase Byrd to bring the Yellow Jackets back to within single digits at 23-14. Byrd, a junior, led Greer receivers with 13 receptions, 133 yards and 2 touchdowns on the night.
Just before half, Simons found Eli Merck for his first of two touchdowns to give Daniel a 30-14 lead going into the break.
“We had a great game plan going in,” said Simons, “we knew going into the game that Eli (Merck) and Jaylen (Brown-Wallace) could have a big night if we connected. We worked on it all week and just went and executed it.” Merck finished with 6 receptions for 107 yards and two touchdowns, the second of which came midway through the third quarter to give Daniel a 37-14 advantage going into the fourth.
After taking over at quarterback, junior Kolton Chapman would find Brown-Wallace for his second receiving touchdown of the game, while running back Ja’Kari Bennett added one of his own to round out the scoring for the Lions and bring the final score to 51-21.
Daniel’s Eli Merck credits the team’s attitude at practice for their big opening night win: “We don’t go to practice to stay the same, we go to work and get better. We watch the defense, their tendencies, and we use what we know to plan our offensive scheme,” he said. “Our focus is on next week, but tonight showed everyone we are not going to fold to pressure.”
After setting a school record 25 straight wins, Blaine Simons and the Daniel Lions move on to play at Easley next week, while Greer returns home to host Hillcrest.
“We are going to focus on one week at a time,” said Simons on this year's team’s potential, “but we definitely have an opportunity, and that’s all you can ask for.”
Check back each Saturday for a recap of the ROAR Tri-County Tech High School Football Game of the Week.