Twisters can build on initial positives

Twisters can build on initial positives
Friday’s scrimmage against Dyer County proved to be a good starting point for Union City.
What the Tornadoes must work on now, is finishing.
Exhibiting intensity, toughness and a physical brand of play rarely seen over the last few seasons, an overhauled UC program still had far more positives than negatives while battling the 3A Choctaws on fairly even terms for more than two hours in sweltering conditions.
Dyer County, which returns more than a dozen starters from last season’s Region 7-3A championship team, ended up outscoring the Twisters six-touchdowns-to-four in the first preseason work for both clubs.
Union City’s new mid-line offense consistently chewed up yardage and was productive, however.
And, if not for two fumbles inside the DC 10 that thwarted likely TD marches, the final scoring tally would’ve been even.
There were some issues, though, ones that will surely be addressed in practice today for the Purple and Gold.
Dyer County scored on the scrimmage’s first play and regularly gouged a Union City defense with a slip-screen play, a staple of the Big Orange’s pass-happy offense that was derived by the Tony Fanklin scheme subscribed to by the Choctaws last season.
New Tornado head coach Darren Bowling had the typical not-all-good, not-all-bad evaluation afterward.
“Effort-wise, I was pleased,” the UC skipper said. “We were physical on both sides of the ball, and we kept playing hard even when we had some bad things to happen. I expected us to have dead legs after being at camp for five days and practicing as much as we did, and we were a little weary. Still, our guys fought through it against a very good football team, and that’s something we’re trying to instill — mental toughness.
“We’ve gotta learn to finish though. We had two drives that we didn’t finish, and several of their touchdowns came when we didn’t finish off plays on defense after having guys wrapped up. We’re going to get better with that though, because the kids want to and they’re buying into what we’re selling because they can see that it works.”
Piloting the Union City run-oriented attack, senior quarterback Colton Speed scored three of his team’s four touchdowns on keepers and after methodical drives and good work by the locals’ offensive line that essentially controlled play in the trenches.
The first of those scores came on a 55-yard scamper on which he faked out a Choctaw defensive back after breaking into the clear.
Speed — playing for the first time since his freshman season — also hit paydirt on runs of 14 and 10 yards.
A long Speed pass completion to Brandon Easley that covered more than 40 yards on one of the rare occasions that UC threw the ball set up the QB’s second rushing TD.
Kendrick Price scored the Twisters’ other touchdown on a 12-yard gallop.
Despite the defensive shortcomings, there were some bright spots, particularly up front where tackles Ronnie Fair and Trey Maddox regularly pressured
Dyer County quarterback Peyton Lucas and combined for five of the Tornadoes’ seven sacks.
Lucas, who was otherwise both efficient and impressive, also scored on a one-yard sneak in addition to throwing four TD passes.
“That type of offense, it’s tough to defend even when you prepare for it,” Bowling said of the Choctaws’ spread-set attack. “They execute and run it well, and it’s designed for the defense to have to make plays in space. We didn’t wrap up and make some the tackles we had a chance to make.
“We’re going to get better though. I know it. And the kids know it. We’re going to roll up our sleeves on Monday and go back to work to make sure.”
Union City will scrimmage for a second time, Tuesday night at 8 at Gibson County.
The Pioneers — according to head coach Jason Dyer — will field their best-ever team this fall and are expected to be in the mix for a playoff spot in rugged Region 8-2A.
“They’re usually big and physical, and it’ll be a different kind of challenge for us,” Bowling claimed.
UC will scrimmage for a third time in the preason on Friday afternoon, at Jackson Christian School.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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