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Jr. Tornadoes make splash in bowl

Jr. Tornadoes make splash in bowl
Neither Mother Nature nor McKenzie could rain on the Union City Middle School football team’s parade.
The Jr. Tornadoes capped a seven-win season Tuesday night with a 28-12 victory over McKenzie in the third annual mckenzierebels.com Bowl at Bethel College.
UCMS (7-2) was hardly affected by a steady rain that fell throughout the contest, playing turnover-free football while rolling up 267 total yards against a Jr. Rebel squad that had lost just once in seven games coming in and was the four-time reigning Carroll County champions.
Drake Parker ran for 143 yards, three touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions for the locals and was the easy choice for his team’s Offensive MVP Award, given by bowl officials afterward. Keontre Murrell was selected as Union City’s Defensive MVP after making six tackles and also was a perfect complement to Parker as he rushed for 98 yards and the Twisters’ other score.
Tornado head coach Bobby Williams had nothing but praise for his squad following the contest, especially noting how the elements some might consider inclement never bothered his troops.
“I’ve always told them that there were two things they couldn’t do anything about: Their opponents and the weather,” the UCMS skipper said. “I constantly tell them if it’s bad outside weather-wise, that’s good for us. We did offensively everything I wanted us to do without regard for the rain.”
While Parker and Murrell got the majority of the glory, their feats would not have been possible without the efforts of offensive linemen Brennan Barnett, Garrett Lawley, Jason Stone, Brett Gore and Bud Miller, along with ends Abram Carroll and Caleb Long.
“Our guys up front did a real good job,” Williams confirmed. “We’re not real big, and we started out in the T-formation using a lot of misdirection and taking advantage of a lot of angles. In the second half, we went to an over set and ran the sweep, the power and the trap. And our success all started up front.”
After spotting the Rebels a 6-0 lead when Mckenzie took the opening kickoff and ultimately got a 14-yard touchdown from Bishop Williams, UC scored 22 unanswered points.
Parker bolted over left guard for the first of his scores — a 19-yard touchdown — and his following two-point conversion gave the Tornadoes an 8-6 lead they would not lose.
A 15-yard Parker TD jaunt with 2:38 left in the first half made it 14-6 at the intermission.
The Twisters then denied a McKenzie scoring threat just before halftime with Long making a nice stop of Rebel quarterback Alec Akin at the Union City 14 after the Twister safety had broken up a pass two plays earlier.
Parker capped UC’s opening drive of the second half with a six-yard touchdown scamper after earlier positioning his club for the six-pointer with a 41-yard sprint. He tacked on the conversion to widen the Tornado advantage to 22-6.
Williams — Mckenzie’s offensive MVP 102 yards rushing on 13 carries — scored the Rebels’ other TD on the hosts’ first possession of the third quarter to make it 22-12.
Union City essentially salted the game away, though, with Murrell’s touchdown run two minutes into the fourth quarter. The six-yard score was set up by a 14-yard pass from Travis Rutland to Joseph Shanks — the Twisters’ only completion of the night.
Defensively, Gore and Rutland joined Murrell atop the UC tackle chart with six stops apiece, while Miller recorded five hits.
“I’m so proud of these kids; they’re truly deserving of getting to play in a bowl game and it’s icing on the cake that we won,” Williams added. “They worked so hard in the offseason, they were well-conditioned and these eighth-graders have been such a joy because of their attitude and commitment to our program.
“I look forward to them going across the street and being contributors to our high school program, which is our main focus as a feeder program.”
McKenzie ended its season with a 6-2 mark.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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