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Twisters send out warning of return

Twisters send out warning of return
Twisters send out warning of return

Union City fullback Josh Nicks breaks free for a gain during Union City’s 63-22 romp over Gleason Friday evening.
If Friday’s 63-22 drubbing of Gleason was indeed a statement game, Union City’s message could be heard loud and clear.
The eighth-ranked Tornadoes dominated the Bulldogs in all phases with their most complete effort of the season while winning their ninth straight and completing a perfect 7-0 run through Region 7-1A.
More importantly, UC gave all signs it is primed for a run deep into the postseason after scoring the sixth-most points ever in a single game and avenging a shocking loss to the state’s smallest football-playing school a year ago.
First-year Twister head coach Darren Bowling said the impressive showing was in fact two-fold in its importance.
“First and foremost, I think it’s a sign that we’re ready for the playoffs,” said the Union City skipper, whose team will host Halls in a Round 1 game. “Gleason has a pretty good football team, and we totally controlled them on both sides of the ball, I thought. Our offense was really clicking and, other than a couple of drives, we handled them and were physical with them defensively.
“Also, I think we showed them this is not the same Union City team that they saw last year. I could feel the emotion building all week long with our kids, and we just erupted there in the first quarter. Our kids remembered last year when Gleason just lined up and ran right over them, and they were intent on that not happening again.”
Gleason head coach Noah Lampkins — whose team will also make the playoffs as a four-seed and will play Region 8 champion Trinity Christian Academy — claimed his club was intimidated by UC.
“We were scared,” an obviously-disgusted Lampkins said afterward. “We didn’t execute offensively or defensively. They were aggressive and we didn’t respond.
“We were just intimidated.”
Union City repeatedly gashed the Bulldogs with its punishing ground game, rolling up 515 rushing yards while averaging a whopping 13 yards-per-carry and scoring on nine of 10 possessions.
Four different Tornado runners scored two or more touchdowns with fullback Josh Nicks piling up 183 yards on just 12 attempts with TDs covering 38 and 41 yards. Slot Kendrick Price gained 178 yards on but eight carries, including a 96-yard scoring sprint that was the second-longest in UCHS history among his two touchdowns.
Quarterback Colton Speed was both efficient and impressive, too, hitting paydirt three times among his seven keepers with TDs of 18, 28 and 39 yards and 95 yards all totaled. Jacob Worley, the other slot in the Twisters’ scheme that was impressive both inside and on the flanks, scored on runs of 25 and 11 yards while toting the mail just four times.
“That was a great example that we have other people who can hurt you running the ball other than Colton (Speed),” Bowling added. “I know there’s the belief out there that if you stop him, you stop this offense, but that’s just not true.
“Both Kendrick and (Jacob) Worley got the corner several times, and (Josh) Nicks just makes people respect him and our inside game at fullback. We’re not completely there yet as an offense, but we’re getting there.”
Defensively, Union City gave up a handful of big plays, but made far more than that.
Led by man-child Ronnie Fair at one tackle and cat-quick fireplug Trey Maddox at the other, the Tornadoes dropped Gleason ballcarriers 11 times for minus-yardage. Fair had 10 tackles in all, including two sacks and two more takedowns for lost yards, while Maddox made all four of his stops behind the line of scrimmage, including a sack.
Worley, at linebacker, matched Fair’s total tackle numbers. Cornerback Julian Moss, meanwhile, recorded seven hits, including a critical tackle of Gleason’s Zach Wallace at the Tornado one on fourth down that got the locals the ball back and preceded Price’s aforementioned long scoring jaunt.
Both Peter Wilkes and Rance Barnes had a half-dozen tackles each and an interception, Barnes’ coming on a two-point conversion play.
“We’ve still got a few issues on defense, but our guys are playing with passion and intensity, and sometimes that overcomes the mistakes we are making,” Bowling said.
UC scored three times within its first nine snaps to take a 21-0 lead before Gleason briefly made a game of it with two TDs of its own.
Touchdown scampers by Nicks, Worley and Speed before the game was eight minutes old got the Twisters off and running. But a scoring pass from Nicky Spain to Alex Verdell that covered 27 yards and Verdell’s four-yard TD after Cody Ezell scooped up Speed’s bad-pitch fumble and returned it 35 yards deep inside Union City territory got the Bulldogs within 21-14 after Spain hit Ezell for the conversion following Verdell’s rushing score.
The Tornadoes then kicked it into high gear, though, striking quickly on four consecutive possessions — three of those lasting just two plays.
Price’s electrifying dash after UC’s goal-line stand was the obvious highlight, and his second score after a two-yard run on the third play of the second quarter. Nicks, who set up an earlier TD with a 48-yard rumble, scored for the second time on a 41-yard run before Worley — sprung by a perfect block on the flank by Moss — made it 49-14 at halftime by scoring with 28 seconds left before the intermission.
With the clock running continuously in the second half by rule because of the mercy rule, Gleason tallied on its first possession before the Twisters finished out the scoring on two Speed option keepers.
Verdell’s two-yard dive capped the Bulldogs’ eight-play touchdown drive midway through the third period.
GAME NOTES: Wilkes provided the Tornadoes a third dimension with outstanding special teams work. He made 9-of-9 extra points, and booted three kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks. Four other kicks reached the Gleason seven-yard line or deeper … UC’s playoff game against Halls will start at 7 p.m., 30 minutes earlier than regular season games.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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