By KEVIN WEAKS
A year ago, Union City players left War Memorial Stadium talking about how good Wayne County was and ultimately could be.
Friday night, the current Golden Tornado players no doubt left a similar impression on WC’s squad at Guy H. Buchanan Stadium.
“Last year, they really put it to us at our place,” UC head coach Darren Bowling said. “We walked off the field telling our kids that we might have been looking at the state champions. That’s what I was telling our kids this past week. I told them we needed to go down there and have them walk off the field saying that might be this year’s state champion.”
Wayne County did, indeed, go on to win the Class 1A state title a year ago, rolling over the Twisters on the way to an unbeaten season.
Union City likely fulfilled its goal on Friday, hammering the Wildcats 56-6 at Waynesboro to improve to 2-0 on the season. Wayne County is now 0-2.
UC dominated all areas of the game, spreading the wealth offensively in piling up 442 total yards while almost completely shutting down the ’Cats in allowing a slightly misleading 142 yards.
In addition to its trademark power running game led by Keylon Hyde, the Twisters showed off superior speed by getting to the outside and outrunning the Wildcats’ packed-in defense.
Hyde rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, while Khiry Lewis needed just four carries to gain 106 yards and score once.
Travis Rutland, meanwhile, saw two of his four pass completions go for scores as Keontre Murrell found a seam for a 63-yard score and Tymaine Strickland did the same on a 28-yard touchdown.
The Twisters grinded out two scoring drives, going 60 yards on 11 plays to start the game and then marching 68 yards on 10 plays on a series that started midway through the third period and ended 11 seconds into the fourth frame. Three other scoring drives, meanwhile, took just one play each.
“Keylon is such a threat to everybody, so people know what he can do and are testing us inside,” Bowling said. “That might change as we go on because teams are starting to see that we have other alternatives. We have guys who can get out on the flanks and make things happen. And, we have to be able to throw the ball more when people are packing the box.
“Our only scoring drive in the second half with our ‘ones’ (starters) out there, we just pounded. We didn’t want to score quickly, so it’s good to be able to do that and run some clock when we want to. And, we have the ability to score quickly, too. I know it sounds silly to some to say you don’t want to score quickly if you can, but it really wears down the other team and also gives your defense a rest when you can grind it down the field.”
UC’s defense, meanwhile, didn’t let the Wildcats grind up much of anything.
It’s speed a factor on that side of the ball, too, Union City stopped nine of WC’s 33 rushes behind the line of scrimmage while getting out on the Wildcats’ receivers to stop three completions at one yard and another at just three yards.
“Team speed on defense is a big factor, too,” Bowling said. “They’re flying around to the ball and making plays, and they’re getting there with an attitude.”
Ricky Henry spent a lot of time in Wayne County’s backfield with three sacks and another tackle for lost yardage.
“If you hit a quarterback like that a couple of times in a game, that makes him think about you a little more and gives him happy feet to get out of there faster,” Bowling said. “Ricky’s hits had him hurting back there.”
Lewis, meanwhile, had the big defensive play of the night as he picked off a Keeton Kelly pass in the back of the end zone and then weaved his way 109 yards for a score on the final play of the first half.
“Khiry made some nice cuts,” Bowling said of the pick six. “He didn’t just catch it and run. He had to work for it.”
Cace Cook, successful on all eight of his point-after kicks on the night, gave UC a 42-0 halftime lead following the return. The second half was played with a running clock.
Prior to Lewis’ big play, the Wildcats had moved from their own 10-yard-line to the Twisters’ 15 on just two plays, but Carson Kelly’s runs of 10 and 65 yards came against UC’s reserve defensive unit.
Wayne County’s only other successful series came at the start of the second half as the team drove 54 yards on six plays. Kelly, who finished with 137 yards on 11 carries, scored on a 25-yard run.
Published in The Messenger 8.27.12