|Not that it needed much, but any help Union City had to have to break a five-game losing streak against Obion Central, the Rebels provided. |
The Tornadoes ended Central’s recent dominance of the series Friday night, coupling their own big-play abilities with a plethora of OC mistakes to thump their county rivals 42-14 before a packed house at War Memorial Stadium.
The victory was UC’s 36th in 46 all-time meetings between the two, but the Twisters’ first vs. the Rebels since 2001.
Union City mounted a goal-line stand on the game’s first series when it turned away OC twice from the one, then took advantage of five Central turnovers, a blocked punt, 87 yards’ worth of penalties and sloppy tackling to keep the Rebels winless in five games.
The Twisters — who scored following four of the Obion Central turnovers and turned the blocked punt into a safety — also produced a handful of big plays offensively as four of their six touchdowns come on snaps covering 24 yards or more.
Brett White threw two TD passes and ran for a third, Pat Polk rushed for a score and caught a White aerial for another six-pointer, and Josh Nicks ran through seemingly the entire OC defense on his way to a 36-yard touchdown.
“We were the beneficiaries of several gifts with Obion’s mistakes and, even though we made some big plays on offense, I really felt like it was a struggle for us the entire night,” said Union City head coach Jimmy Fishel, who recorded the first win of his five-year tenure against the Rebels. “We did enough good things to get by, and it feels good to win, but they helped us some too.”
On the other sideline, rookie OCCHS head coach Jason Driggers was understandably discouraged afterward.
“I know I sound like a broken record, but the mistakes are killing us, and we obviously aren’t doing a very good job of correcting them in practice because we keep making the same ones,” he said. “We really have trouble overcoming bad plays and minus-yardage plays, but when you have essentially six turnovers with the blocked punt and 90 yards of penalties, there are a lot of teams who play on Sundays who can’t overcome that.
“What I’m most disappointed in, though, is our effort. I’m not sure we had everybody giving their all. We will address that, for sure, this week.”
The Rebels were essentially a one-man show offensively with Chase Clanton — operating at both running back and quarterback in multiple sets — running for 139 yards and both OC touchdowns while also completing half his 12 passes for 84 yards.
And though OC’s yardage total (260) was its most of the season, the county locals were largely ineffective in the run game for the most part due to the Tornadoes committing extra defenders to the line of scrimmage because of that season-long defensive struggle.
“We essentially played an eight-man front and we brought our secondary up close to the line of scrimmage to stop them from running the ball,” Fishel confirmed. “We felt like we had to do something in that area because of the success other team’s had had against us, and we thought that Obion would try to do the same thing.”
Darren Dickerson and Camron Sherwood were in on six solo tackles apiece for UC with Dickerson totaling 10 stops in all.
Union City’s aforementioned defensive series after Central’s Hunter Calhoun had returned the opening kickoff 66 yards and the Rebels then moved in two plays to the Tornado one swung the early momentum toward the home team.
Runs by Lucas Fulbright and Clanton were stacked up by the middle of the Union City defense before Driggers then elected on third down to send Heuck wide right, where he was stopped for a lost yard by Julian Moss. On 4th-and-2 then, Clanton tried left guard but was hit and fumbled with Barrett Tanner recovering to swing the emotion to the Purple and Gold side.
The two teams then exchanged fumbles — Austin Hopper recovering a UC bobble and Luke Sanderson falling on one for Central — setting up the Twisters’ first TD.
Aided by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Rebs, Union City drove 70 yards in seven plays. White kept for 22 yards, and threw to Polk for 12 more, the Tornado receiver holding on at the one despite a vicious blow by Clanton. On the next play, Tanner dived in for the touchdown with less than a minute left in the opening frame. Jake Morris blocked the PAT, leaving the count at 6-0.
UC then converted a third Obion Central turnover of the first half into its second score when the first of Brandon Easley’s two fumble recoveries set up a pass from White to Polk in the left flat that ended up going for a 26-yard TD after Polk made three Rebel defenders miss while skipping into the endzone.
Another unsportsmanlike conduct flag was critical in the Twisters’ third score as the hosts actually gained a first down after losing yards on successive plays because of the personal foul penalty and a susequent offsides call.
Nicks churned his way up the gut and through no less than seven would-be tacklers on his way to a 38-yard touchdown with Peter Wilkes’ point-after widening the gap to 19-0 with just under four minutes left before the intermission.
Obion Central, which had more penalty yards than total offense until that point, finally put together a solid drive to get on the scoreboard just before the half.
Clanton hauled a quarterback keeper for 46 yards to position his team for its first TD, then did the honors himself four plays later on a fourth-down five-yard run around left end on which he dived just inside the pylon. Heuck’s kick close the gap to 19-7.
Another OC turnover translated into more points for Union City midway through the second half as Polk ran through two arm tackles on his way to a 36-yard scoring romp with Taylor Bruff improvising for the two-point conversion after a snaky snap and hold on the PAT.
Central countered with a touchdown to keep the margin workable as Clanton threw a pretty 49-yard pass to Heuck to set up his own one-yard sneak that made it 27-14 at 3:15 of the third.
Central would get no closer though, as White skipped 24 yards for a TD five plays after receiving the ensuing kickoff, then hit Bruff on a nine-yard scoring play with 4:37 to go. Jamar Harris blocked a Clanton punt for a safety to account for the final score.
White hit on 9-of-11 aerials in all for 87 yards and also led UC in rushing with 97 yards on just nine attempts. Polk ran for 92 and had three catches for 52 yards, while Nicks racked up 65 yards on but rushes.
Both teams return to respective region play this week, UC hosting Bruceton in 7-1A, while Central journeys to Alamo to play Crockett County in 7-3A.
Game notes: Both sides were hit repeatedly by the injury bug in the contest. For UC, Wilkes likely tore a knee ligament after being roughed by a late hit on his final PAT attempt. Split-end Scott Huff suffered a leg injury and left the game not to return in the second quarter. On the Central bench, Fulbright hurt his leg in the first half and never returned — leaving the Rebels essentially without a fullback — while linebacker Jake Morris and running back Hunter Calhoun also departed via injury in the second half. … Linebacker Bo Childers topped the Central tackle chart with 11 total hits, eight of those solos. Clint Jones had a fumble recovery and Mark Kissell blocked an extra point. …Backup defensive back Cameron Graham — all 5-5, 130 pounds of him — made a couple of key plays for UC in the second half with a fine open-field tackle of Calhoun that prevented a possible touchdown in the third quarter, and then an interception of Clanton in the fourth period that set up the Tornadoes’ final TD.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.