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Twisters shake off G’field stinger

Twisters shake off G’field stinger
Twisters shake off G’field stinger

Union City’s Trey Maddox takes down Greenfield’s Ty Smithson during the Tornadoes’ triumph on Friday.
Slow starts are becoming an issue for Union City.
Once the Tornadoes get rolling, however, their opponents are the ones with problems.
UC spotted a foe a touchdown lead for the fourth consecutive week but then scored on six consecutive possessions and dominated Greenfield 42-8 Friday night before a sparse crowd at War Memorial Stadium.
The triumph was the seventh in a row for the 10th-ranked Twisters, who locked up a playoff berth and can sew up the Region 7-1A championship by beating winless West Carroll this week. A victory vs. WC and another in Week 10 against Gleason would complete a perfect seven-game regional run for the Purple and Gold.
Colton Speed and his magic legs were on display again in Union City’s latest win as the Tornado quarterback ran for five more touchdowns and 175 yards on just 10 carries. Speed — who scored six TDs in a game against Lake County earlier this season — now has rushed for 1,178 rushing yards and 21 scores, averaging more than nine yards-per-carry in the process.
Speed’s success vs. the Yellowjackets, however, was largely the byproduct of new fullback Josh Nicks.
Nicks — previously a slot — was a perfect fit in his new backfield home and provided the locals’ midline option offense with the physical inside presence it has sorely missed recently by rushing for 117 yards.
He netted 97 of those in the first quarter alone when he forced the visitors to account for his being and opened lanes both inside and outside for Speed to jet through.
“Josh brings a lot to the table and really opens things up for the rest of our offense,” Union City head coach Darren Bowling said while praising the bruising Nicks. “In this offense, I’ve never really had the type of athlete he is who was tough enough to be the fullback. He has good speed, he’s strong and he can stand the abuse.
“Greenfield was keying a lot on Colton when the game started, but Josh made them focus on him with how he ran the ball in the middle at the first of the game. When they started to pay attention to him, it opened things up for Colton and our sweep plays, too.”
As both impressive and productive as the UC offense that rushed for 453 yards vs. the Yellowjackets was, the Tornado defense shared equal star billing.
After allowing a touchdown on Greenfield’s opening possession that was aided by three flags and 25 yards’ worth of penalties, the Twisters totally shut down the visitors and never allowed another serious threat while surrendering 86 net yards all totaled.
Union City never allowed a rush of longer than four yards and dropped ’Jacket ballcarriers for losses on 13 of their 23 runs, including eight sacks of quarterback Ty Smithson. The Tornado defense now has 24 QB drops over the past four weeks.
End Stevie Gossett was especially impressive and disruptive to the Greenfield passing game with four of those sacks, while Nicks and Kendrick Price each had interceptions and Jacob Worley a fumble recovery for a unit that forced three turnovers. Brandon Crume also recorded two sacks.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense, and our No. 1 priority is to stop the run,” Bowling added. “We were physical and guys were flying to the football and, even though we gave up a few completions, I thought we obviously got great pressure on their quarterback and forced him to hurry some throws and make some bad decisions on some others.”
The UC coach did acknowledge some concern, however, over his team’s pattern of aforementioned slowness out of the starting gates.
“I wish I knew (what the problem was),” he said. “We seem to be very business-like, like we are in practice every day, and until we get hit in the mouth, we don’t have that intensity at first.
“Whatever it is, we’ve got to get it fixed. We’ve got to start coming out swinging.”
It was Greenfield that connected early, the Yellowjackets stopping UC on downs at their 37 on their first possession and then marching for their only score of the contest.
Helped by a pair of offsides penalties and a personal foul call on the Tornadoes, G’field also got three Smithson pass completions in a six-play, 63-yard touchdown drive. The last of those pitch-and-catch plays went from Smithson to talented split-end Daniel Rickets, who won a jump ball over Julian Moss for an 18-yard TD pass.
Smithson then threw to Steve Johnson for the ensuing two-point conversion and the ’Jackets held an 8-0 lead with the game barely over seven minutes old.
A Nicks 50-yard gallop after UC received the following kickoff put the Twisters into threatening position but, three plays later, the new fullback coughed up possession at the Greenfield eight. Union City got the ball right back, however, when Ronnie Fair jolted Greenfield fullback Chase McMullen and Worley recovered the caused fumble at the 10.
Speed immediately converted the turnover into points, dancing over right guard on an option keeper for the first of his touchdowns. Peter Wilkes started a string of six straight PAT kicks, drawing the locals within 8-7 at 2:13 of the opening quarter.
Speed then had scoring jaunts of 6, 35 and 49 yards in the second period when UC took complete control. None of the locals’ three touchdown sequences lasted more than five plays, and Brandon Easley had a pair of nice punt returns to set up the first two scores, while Price’s interception set the stage for the third.
The Tornadoes resumed their domination immediately after the intermission as Price jetted 37 yards around right end for the first of two third-quarter TDs, before Speed capped the latest in his string of stellar individual performances with a seven-yard keeper that ended in paydirt at the two-minute mark.
Union City threatened twice more in the fourth stanza when reserves got the bulk of the playing time, but Wilkes missed wide left on a 41-yard field goal attempt and Bowling had his son Chase take a knee twice in the waning seconds as a sign of sportsmanship after the Twisters had moved inside the Greenfield 10.
UC also had a touchdown by Thomas Turner called back via penalty.
GAME NOTES — Nicks’ 100-yard rushing effort was his second in three weeks, while Speed has now eclipsed the century-mark on the ground in six of eight games. UC has had at least one 100-yard ground gainer in every game but against Dresden. … Greenfield’s minus-46 yard rushing total marked the second time that an opponent had finished a game in the red vs. the stingy Twister run defense. Bruceton had minus-62 yards two weeks ago. On the flip side, the Yellowjackets’ 132 passing yards marked the seventh time in eight games that Union City’s foes have thrown for more than 100 yards. … Though still minus-4 in the turnover ratio department, the Tornadoes have now forced seven turnovers over the past two weeks. Six of those takeaways have come via interceptions.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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