|Twisters exhale with bottom line |
|Asked afterward if he was more happy or relieved following Union City’s 21-14 win over Greenfield, Tornado head coach Jimmy Fishel managed a slight smile. |
“Both,” the UC skipper said.
Not until Cameron Graham’s interception with 22 seconds to play at the Twister 38 did Union City finally seal its critical Region 7-1A triumph over the Yellowjackets.
Though UC scored on its first two drives and never trailed in the contest, it could never put away a gritty Greenfield squad that battled gamely to the very end.
The Tornadoes got a career-high 210 passing yards from Brett White, a stellar all-around game from Josh Nicks and a pair of telling defensive stands in the first half that turned away Greenfield twice inside the 10 yard-line to improve to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in region play.
The victory — coupled with Gleason’s 32-22 upset of second-place Bruceton — likely means three of the league’s four playoff berths won’t be decided until the results are tallied from the final Friday of the regular season.
Bruceton, Union City, Lake County and Greenfield are all deadlocked behind region frontrunner McKenzie with identical 7-1A records, with Gleason (2-3) now also a variable in an equation that will see two of those aforementioned teams left at home come postseason time.
Regardless of what any of the rest of that lot do, however, the Twisters will make the playoffs if they beat West Carroll at home this week, then win at Gleason in Week 10.
Fishel knows that style points count for little at this time of the year, with the postseason picture muddled by several teams and scenarios.
“We came to Greenfield with one goal and one purpose and that was to win,” the UC coach said. “It didn’t matter how, just that we won. I’m proud of the kids for finding a way to hang on and win when a lot of things went against us there late in the ballgame.”
Union City had increased its eight-point lead to 21-6 with just under six minutes left when Kendrick Price capped a 12-play, 65-yard drive with a three-yard touchdown run. The drive had began when the Tornado defense — which earlier held Greenfield on downs at the six- and five-yard-lines, respectively, on the ’Jackets’ initial two series — stopped the host team for a third time on fourth down, just inches short of moving the sticks.
G’field needed just three plays, though, to roar back to within striking distance, the last a reverse pass thrown from Brett Perkins to Daniel Rickets that covered 36-yards and went for a TD. Chase McMullen’s two-point conversion run was ruled good, making it 21-14 with still 4:25 to play.
Union City then moved to the ’Jacket 30 and ate up valuable clock before a delay of game flag and a fourth-down sack of White gave Greenfield one last gasp with less than 90 seconds to go.
McMullen’s fumble cost the Yellowjackets a precious 14 yards, but the hometeam then got a huge break on a questionable pass interference call on the Tornadoes with 39 ticks left. After an incompletion, though, Graham snagged a floating Colin Medling aerial to end any further suspense.
The Tornadoes drove impressively 71 and 94 yards for touchdowns on their first two possessions with White completing his first eight passes for 122 yards, including a nine-yarder to Nicks for the locals’ second touchdown.
Nicks had catches of 26 and 16 yards on UC’s first two snaps to set up Pat Polk’s one-yard scoring run before the game was two minutes old. Nicks ended the night with six grabs for 97 yards and added another 43 yards on seven rushes.
Price snagged a White toss and rambled 32 yards to highlight the Twisters’ second scoring march that took 11 plays. Will Arnold, who nailed all three PAT attempts, gave Union City a 14-0 advantage at 10:23 of the second period.
The aforementioned goal-line stands by UC’s much-maligned defense and a third promising drive had the Purple and Gold on the verge of taking complete command of the contest just before the half after having advanced to the Greenfield 10 in the final two minutes of the second quarter.
White, though, made one of his few mistakes and was intercepted by Perkins in the endzone.
The sure-handed Ricketts then showed off his talents, first making a diving sprawl of a Medling pass for a 37-yard gain, then out-leaping Nicks and latching onto a deflection for a 37-yard touchdown with just six seconds left before the intermission.
“Give Greenfield credit, they played hard to the last whistle,” Fishel concluded. “We struggled some again defensively, taking poor angles and not keeping people in front of us.
“The two defensive stands there in the first half were huge, though. And I thought we moved the ball extremely well between the 20s, we just had trouble sticking it into the endzone a couple of times.”
Defensively, Jacob Worley topped the Tornado tackle chart with 11 tackles, five solos and two for lost yardage.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.