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Twisters deal SF 1st loss; all alone atop 7-A

Twisters deal SF 1st loss; all alone atop 7-A
Twisters deal SF 1st loss; all alone atop 7-A

Union City’s Colton Speed searches for an opening during Friday victory over South Fulton.
Union City admittedly isn’t where Darren Bowling would like for his team to be.
After handing 10th-ranked South Fulton its first loss, though, there are seven other Region 7-1A teams that would gladly trade places with the Tornadoes.
UC took over sole possession of the region lead Friday night when quarterback Colton Speed ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Twisters past the Red Devils 28-7 before a standing-room-only crowd at SF Athletic Field.
Union City (6-1, 4-0) overcame three turnovers and 105 yards worth of penalties to ruin South Fulton’s 6-0 record in a showdown of 7-1A’s two teams without a region loss. The victory also marked the Tornadoes’ sixth straight after a season-opening loss to Westview.
The Redmen (6-1, 3-1), meanwhile, are now tied with McKenzie for second place in the region with three regular season games remaining — including a Week 10 matchup vs. the Rebels that could decide who plays at home and who travels in the first round of the postseason.
The Tornadoes were both good and bad in Friday’s much-anticipated all-Obion County showdown against a resurgent Devil club that has been the surprise of rural West Tennessee this season after struggling to just one win in each of the last two years.
Speed — who went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season with his rushing total — and a UC defense that was both opportunistic and stingy highlighted the good for the victors.
Peter Wilkes had two of the Tornadoes’ four picks, with both Rance Barnes and Kendrick Price also snagging interceptions for a unit that allowed no run of more than nine yards and stuffed 23 of SF’s 35 running plays to gains of two yards or less.
The aforementioned giveaways and flags were obvious minuses however.
“When we’re good, we’re pretty good, but when we’re bad, we’re awful,” Bowling claimed. “Obviously, Colton (Speed) gave us some big plays and led us on a huge two-minute drive right before halftime, and our defense really made them one-dimensional with the way we controlled the line of scrimmage against the run.
“The good news is we found a way to win despite all the mistakes we made. But until we quit putting the ball on the ground and throwing interceptions, and until we cut out a lot of the silly penalties, we’re not going to be the team I want us to be or get to where I want us to go.”
On the South Fulton side, the Redmen again continued to display a grittiness rarely seen during their struggles of recent seasons and actually led 7-0 on a Corbin Hawks to Jonathan Avent pass that covered 45 yards eight minutes into the game.
Four interceptions — the biggest thrown inside the redzone and ultimately providing for a 14-point turnaround — doomed SF’s chances, though. So, too, did the Devils’ lack of big-game experience, which appeared to be a factor.
Rookie South Fulton head coach Kelly Spivey tasted defeat for the first time after winning his first six games, yet still had words of praise for his troops.
“I won’t fault our kids’ effort or the heart they played with,” Spivey said. “We had great intensity and made some plays, but they made a few more than we did. They’ve got a little more speed than we do, and their quarterback is an outstanding player and is tough to tackle. Give them credit for the win and our kids the same for playing so hard.
“This was the first time for our kids to experience the big-game atmosphere, and I’m really not sure how we handled it. The interceptions obviously hurt us, and the sequence with them getting a turnover when we were threatening just before the half and turning that into points was huge. I’m hopeful that now that we have some experience of playing in a big game, we can put it to use next week against Lake County in what is another big game for us.”
The telling stretch of the contest came just before the half when the two teams were tied at 7, though the Redmen were threatening to break that deadlock.
After UC’s Josh Nicks had rambled nine yards to paydirt midway through the second period to counter the Hawks-to-Avent TD pass, South Fulton took the ensuing kickoff and immediately moved into scoring territory.
A 51-yard pass from Hawks to Alex Gallien had the Devils in business, and the Redmen moved the sticks again to the Tornado 15 after a pair of Jared Fowler runs and six-yard gain by Skylar Cherry.
Facing a 4th-and-7 from the Union City 15, though, Hawks was pressured heavily by Brandon Crume and literally threw one up for grabs in the middle of the field that the Twisters’ Wilkes intercepted at the one and returned to the 25 with less than two minutes left until halftime.
After UC’s only pass completion of the night — a 27-yarder from Speed to Nicks that moved the ball to midfield, the Tornadoes got a huge break when a Speed fumble that SF recovered was wiped off by a facemask flag on the Red Devils.
Given new life, Speed seized the opportunity with three QB keepers sandwiched around an eight-yard gainer by fullback Trey Maddox with Speed then dancing into the endzone around left end from two yards out with just nine ticks left before the intermission. Wilkes’ point-after gave Union City a 14-7 lead, instead of maybe the opposite for SF if not for the interception.
“No doubt that was huge, and I thought it really provided for a different atmosphere in the second half,” Bowling said. “It obviously gave us some confidence, and I thought it affected their demeanor in a negative way.”
Speed tacked on touchdowns in both the third quarter and in the final minutes on spectacular individual efforts.
He dashed 50 yards for a score after cutting all the way across the field from right to left on an option keeper with the third quarter half gone and then finished off the Devils with 1:23 left on a 29-yard touchdown that was simply will as he broke no less than four tackles along the way.
South Fulton was never able to sustain any offense over the final two quarters, netting just 39 total yards with Hawks throwing two interceptions and Avent one on a fourth-down halfback option effort.
The Devils’ deepest penetration was a penalty-aided drive that reached the 20 before Crume recorded a sack and Price dropped Avent for a nine-yard loss to thwart the march.
“We missed out on a few chances to make plays offensively,” Spivey said.
Linebacker Jacob Worley ended up with 11 tackles to place the UC defense, while end Stevie Gossett recorded six stops. Ronnie Fair racked up five tackles and forced a pair of fumbles, while two of Crume’s five hits were for lost yardage.
Hawks was a demon for SF defensively with an interception, a fumble recovery and six tackles, and Jacob Wade had an interception. George Garmon led the Redmen with seven stops, and Cherry had a half-dozen.
Both teams are at home this week for region games, Union City vs. Greenfield, and the Red Devils against Lake County.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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