UC defense takes step forward

UC defense takes step forward
One would assume that after his newly-installed offense scored five touchdowns in just three series, Union City coach Darren Bowling would be eager to talk about that side of the ball.
It was the Tornado defense, however, that was first on his mind and out of his mouth Tuesday night after UC outscored Gibson County five-touchdowns-to-none in the locals’ second scrimmage of the preseason.
“We were tons better today than we were Friday on defense,” Bowling claimed after his troops dominated an abbreviated session that lasted little more than an hour. “We saw an offensive style with Gibson County that was more conducive to what we’re comfortable defensively, and we got a lot of hats around the football on most every play.”
Union City’s defense — a point of emphasis after a shaky first scrimmage outing vs. Dyer County last Friday — was indeed stifling against both the run and the pass.
The Tornadoes enthusiastically gang-tackled Pioneer ball carriers on most every play, and in fact, in its three times with the ball that encompassed 30 offensive snaps, GC crossed midfield just once.
“We made a few adjustments from Friday against Dyer County but, more than anything, we just stressed getting people to the ball,” Bowling continued. “If the first guy happens to miss the tackle, you’ve got a much better chance at limiting a big gain if you have the rest of the defense closing in.
“I think a lot of it goes back to effort and attitude and selling out for your teammates. It’s something we’ve worked on since Day 1 of the offseason and something we still stress every day now.”
Facing what GCHS head coach Jason Dyer had predicted earlier in the preseason would be “the best team at Gibson County in a while,” Union City struck immediately after going on offense first in the scrimmage, then dominated thereafter.
Three straight fullback dives in the locals’ midline attack softened the Pioneers up before quarterback Colton Speed hit a streaking Josh Nicks on a pretty 55-yard touchdown pitch and catch.
The TD was one of three tallied by Nicks, who also snagged an option pitch from Speed and scooted to paydirt from six yards out before ending the scoring on a 20-yard touchdown scamper.
Speed had a 65-yard scoring sprint on an option keeper the second time UC had the ball, while Luke Sanderson rumbled up the gut on a 50-yard TD run earlier in the session.
Peter Wilkes was a perfect 5-for-5 on extra-point kicks as both teams also got some special teams work in with their respective kicking games.
“We’re getting there offensively,” added Bowling, who got several of his reserves in later in the scrimmage while looking to establish depth. “We didn’t have a very good practice on offense on Monday, but we did some things better tonight.
“Again, we’re a work in progress. As long as we get a little better every night out, I’ll be satisfied.”
The Tornadoes will scrimmage for the third time in eight days and for the last time prior to opening their season on Aug. 29 when they travel to Jackson Christian School Friday evening for a 6:30 workout vs. the Eagles.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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