UCMS bowl game invite adds to McKenzie rivalry

UCMS bowl game invite adds to McKenzie rivalry
UCMS bowl game invite adds to McKenzie rivalry

Union City’s Drake Parker looks for open field during Tuesday’s victory over Dyersburg.
Everyone clamoring for another game between Union City and McKenzie will get their wish sooner than expected.
The two schools — which met earlier in the prep season in a thrilling and controversy-filled Region 7-1A showdown — will match their middle school football teams in the third annual mckenzierebels.com Bowl Oct. 7.
The postseason jayvee game will be played on the artificial turf of Wildcat Stadium at Bethel College with kickoff set for 7 p.m. Proceeds will benefit United Neighbors and both the McKenzie and Union City programs.
The contest will pit the 6-1 host Jr. Rebels — reigning Carroll County champions for four years running — against UCMS, which ended its regular season Tuesday night with a 22-12 triumph over Dyersburg for a 6-2 record.
While many on the high school level are hoping for a rematch of the Union City and McKenzie High School teams in the playoffs after the Tornadoes beat the Rebs 21-16 in a nailbiter in Week 3, the battle between the two middle school feeder programs should be entertaining, too.
And Jr. Twister head coach Bobby Williams believes the matchup will be good for both programs and both towns.
“It’s a team our kids are going to be playing for several years as they move across the road to the high school, and I believe it’s good that we get familiar with playing them and their kids,” Williams claimed. “It’ll be a good test for us, and our kids are excited.
“I think it could set the tone for what could be a great rivalry between the two schools and the two towns in the future.”
The Tornadoes will field a solid team made up of a handful of playmakers on both sides of the ball as well as several unsung standouts.
The team overcame the loss of two-way star Keylon Hyde, who suffered a broken leg early in the second game of the season, to earn its bowl trip.
“This team has worked hard in the offseason and, when Keylon was hurt, they all pulled together and did a little bit extra to become a good football team and one I’m real proud of,” Williams continued. “It’s the hardest working bunch I’ve ever had.”
Quarterback Travis Rutland leads a UC offense that features the running of backfield mates Keontre Murrell and Drake Parker.
Brett Gore has “a nose for the football,” according to his coach and is the Tornadoes’ ringleader on defense, with Parker drawing compliments from Williams, too, for his work on that side of the ball.
A pair of offseason transfers — Joseph Shanks and Bud Miller — have contributed significantly to Union City’s success.
Shanks, the son of former Tornado player Tim Shanks and the grandson of ex-UC head coach Larry Shanks, has shined at fullback and linebacker, while Miller has been steady at defensive tackle.
Abram Carroll, a two-way starter at end, was singled out by Williams as one of the team’s most improved players, while split-end/cornerback Caleb Long has been a solid preformer.
Parker, Hyde, Long and Gore were all voted team captains as a sign of their status prior to Tuesday’s game against Dyersburg.
“This is a great group, and I expect and am hopeful we’ll send about 20 or so over to Coach Bowling and the high school,” Williams concluded. “We are what we’re supposed to be, a feeder program whose design is to teach kids fundamentals and have them with the knowledge and some of the basics they need to play at the next level.”
In Tuesday night’s regular season finale, Murrell ran for touchdown from five and nine yards out and Parker scooted in from the eight and tacked on a pair of two-point coversions in leading the Twisters past D’burg.
Gore continued his trend of topping the UC tackle chart with a team-leading nine stops, while Parker, Shanks and Miller were in on seven hits apiece.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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