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UC knows Halls not Tigers of last visit

UC knows Halls not Tigers of last visit
If Union City is to make its first extended trip into the postseason, the first leg of that journey will be a familiar one.
However, it likely won’t be as easy.
The eight-ranked Golden Tornadoes will face Halls in Round 1 of the Class A state playoffs Friday night at War Memorial Stadium.
UC, champions of Region 7-1A, will ride the momentum of a nine-game winning streak and its best overall performance of the 2008 season into the contest against a Tiger club that upset Region 8 titleist Trinity Christian Academy in its final regular season game last Thursday.
The Tigers, who had lost three straight prior to surprising TCA, will bring a 5-5 record into the postseason after finishing fourth in their respective region.
The two teams last met for the first and only time in the postseason in 2005 when Union City thrashed the Tigers 54-7 on its way to the single-A state championship game.
Other than that, there appears to be few similarities between the pending matchup and the one of three seasons ago.
For starters, this particular Halls team has some legitimacy with a break-even mark that includes a 38-34 win over Lake County, a 30-0 romp over Greenfield and an early-season five-point triumph against Gleason in addition to its surprising win over TCA.
The 2005 team that was hammered by UC in Round 1 after entering that game at 2-8.
Fourth-year head coach Chris Hurt and his Tigers have bought into the ‘Tony Franklin offense,’ a scheme that features a short passing game but also mixes in the run.
Quarterback Craig Davis has thrown for more than 1,200 yards, but ran for 98 yards and two TDs in Halls’ upset of TCA.
Davis has had a hand in 27 touchdowns in all this season.
Tailback Steven Cessac rushed for 192 yards in the Tigers’ most significant triumph of the year.
Cessac, Todd Barlow and David Davidson are all capable receivers in the team’s spread-set attack.
“We struggled some early, and we’ve had to adjust the system to what our kids can do, but I’m pleased with where we are in regards to our offense,” Hurt told The Messenger. “We’ve really been running the ball a lot more and more efficiently lately, probably around a 50-50 mix if not more so tilted toward the run.
“Our quarterback (Davis) is a good player, and we’ve got some other kids who are capable, too. We hit a little bit of a wall before the Trinity Christian game, but we really sold out in our preparation for them. We made a big deal out of measuring up to the best team in our region and that they are a private school, and our kids played with a lot of emotion and for four quarters. That was the biggest difference.”
Union City head coach Darren Bowling scouted Halls in person against TCA and came away impressed.
“They’re athletic, their backs run hard and their quarterback is a player,” Bowling claimed.
The Tornado skipper, while proud of his team’s recent play, nine-game winning streak and the Region 7A championship that came as a result of that victory string, cautioned that none of that will matter when Halls comes to town on Friday.
“We’ll all be 0-0 when the playoffs start,” he said. “We’re all proud of what we accomplished in the regular season as far as winning the regional championship and getting the community back involved with our program, but that won’t mean anything come next week.
“This will be no time for a hangover. We can’t have a flat game. Those teams who do, usually don’t stay around long in the postseason. And what we did during the regular season will lose some of its luster if we don’t continue that level of play in the playoffs.”
Hurt said his squad is intent on making a better showing vs. the Tornadoes than it did last time.
“We’re really pumping it up and telling our kids that anything can happen on any given night — just like when we played TCA,” the Halls coach claimed. “You’ve got to beat the best to keep playing at this time of the year, and Union City is a one-seed and a very good football team.
“I feel like our record could be a little better, but I know we’ll bring a better team than we did a few years ago. I think we’ll make a much better accounting of ourselves.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Friday.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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