Turnovers have been Cass High’s Achilles’ heel this season as the senior-laden team has tried to overcome a lack of experience in several key positions and find a way to take advantage of its overall talent. Pickens converted only one of those turnovers — three interceptions and two fumbles — to scores.
Friday’s loss dropped the Colonels to 0-1 in Region 7A-AAAA and put more pressure on them to fix their turnover troubles quickly in order to pursue their hopes of returning to the state playoffs at season’s end.
“We have to protect the ball better,” head coach Rick Casko said after the Colonels’ game. “We can’t expect to win against a good team if we have a lot of turnovers.
“Pickens is a very good team and they played well tonight. If we’d been able to cut down those turnovers, we should have been playing right with them at the end.”
He said while Cass made a lot of good plays, the Colonels only came close on a few occasions and let scoring opportunities slip away.
“If we want to win against teams like Pickens, we have to make those plays,” he added.
While the game slipped away, the Colonels did show some positive signs of growing up throughout the night.
That was especially true in two of the Colonels’ drives in the first half of the contest.
The Colonels held Pickens to three-and-out the first time the Dragons had the ball and then took over at their own 43 after the punt.
Two plays netted zero yards but then Kelin Wells found some open space after going around end to pick up his team’s initial first down of the game with an 18-yard pickup.
Two plays later Chaz Rokins plowed his way through the line for 19 yards.
Justin Reed later capped the seven-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run and Cass took a 7-0 lead with 7:18 remaining in the first frame after Pablo Delores added the point-after-touchdown.
Pickens answered the next time the Dragons got the ball as they took nine plays to cover 70 yards and pull to 7-6 later in the period.
The Dragons scored twice more in the half and had pulled out to a 20-7 lead with 10:42 remaining when the Colonels were driving but fumbled after penetrating to the Pickens 12-yard line.
The Colonels held Pickens to three plays following the miscue and then started a drive from their own 22.
It took Cass 11 plays to go the length of the field, with a pass from Trevor Lowe to Jordan Cothron covering 14 yards, a pass to Wells lapping up 34 yards and a 7-yard touchdown run by Reed — his second of the night — capping the march.
The Colonels made the PAT and closed to 20-14 with 48 seconds remaining before the break.
Cass opened the second half with that same fervor and took just three plays to travel 73 yards with Wells getting the lion’s share of the real estate when he brought down a Lowe pass for a 53-yard score. The PAT was good by Delores and Cass led 21-20, the last time it was ahead in the game.
Pickens answered that score with a touchdown after an 11-play drive, taking a 27-21 lead with 7:17 remaining in the third frame.
The Colonels were trying to make a similar statement the next series but threw an interception. It took the Dragons seven plays to surge into the lead at 33-21 and they added a two-point conversion for a 35-21 lead with 4:38 remaining in the period.
Cass threw another interception just before the quarter ended and surrendered a safety about three minutes into the final period to trail 37-21.
About halfway into the fourth quarter, Cass turned the ball over with a fumble but held the Dragons on the next series.
Cass took over on downs at its 14 and Lowe concluded his fireworks show by connecting with Keylon Woodard on an 83-yard touchdown strike that closed the contest to 37-27.
Pickens added a final touchdown, to close out scoring at 43-27 with 2:06 remaining.
The loss dropped Cass to 2-4 on the season. The Colonels next play Gilmer County on Friday.
Pickens improved to 4-1 and next plays Cedartown on Friday.
Both games kick off at 7:30 p.m.