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Pass defense a UC priority

Pass defense a UC priority
Union City has a pretty good idea what’s coming.
Whether or not the Tornadoes can stop it, remains to be seen.
When eighth-ranked UC puts its nine-game winning streak on the line and hosts Halls in a first round Class A playoff game Friday night, the Tigers will test the Purple and Gold with their version of the much-publicized ‘Tony Franklin Offense.’
The no-huddle spread set attack devised by the recently-fired Auburn offensive coordinator is designed to create mismatches in space and put pressure on opposing defenses to make plays in the open field.
It is generally considered a passing offense, though when executed effectively, also mixes in running plays to take advantage of foes on their heels.
That Halls (5-5) has impressively taken to the system and posted such notable wins as ones over Lake County and Region 8 champion Trinity Christian Academy, makes the visitors a dangerous opponent for a Union City defense that has sometimes struggled while defending teams who capably throw the ball.
“It’s a challenge to defend teams like Halls, and they do some things — both throwing and running — very well,” first-year Tornado coach Darren Bowling confirmed. “Every team that runs the spread has its own variation of it, and we’ve prepared the best we can for what we’ve seen them do on film and last week when we scouted them in person.
“Whether we can completely stop it, I don’t know. That may not be realistic to think we’re going to totally shut them down.”
Eight of the Twisters’ 10 opponents have thrown for more than 100 yards this season, and teams are averaging 155 yards-per-game through the air vs. the locals.
Bowling acknowledges those numbers, but also points to the fact that his club’s staunch run defense that has rendered several opponents one-dimensional naturally means that the opposition will complete some passes.
“When you play a team that’s been running the ball 90 percent of the time, and then they throw it 25 times against you because you’ve shut down their running game, it’s only natural that they’re going to get some yards passing.
“I feel we’ve gotten much better as the season’s gone on with our pass defense. Some of the yards we’ve given up have been insignificant because we’ve been so far ahead. And that we’ve been able to get such great pressure on the quarterback has to be factored in too.”
Another check of the numbers backs up Bowling.
Union City did not have an interception the first four weeks of the season and had given up five touchdown passes. In the six games since then, the Tornadoes have surrendered six TD tosses — four against the first team — and have intercepted 10 opposing aerials.
Peter Wilkes has a team-high four picks, while Rance Barnes, Kendrick Price and Josh Nicks have two apiece.
Equally as telling has been the relentless rush the Twisters have put on the other teams’ signal-callers.
High-motor tackle Ronnie Fair’s nine sacks top a list than includes 30 quarterback drops for the season. End Stevie Gossett has eight.
Getting pressure on standout Halls’ QB Craig Davis might be a different issue though, given that many of the pass routes in the Tigers schemes involve short drops in the pocket .
“You have to adjust, and we will,” Bowling insisted. “Sometimes, you get pressure from places other than your front four. Sometimes you’ll send a linebacker or two, other times, you might bring up a safety.
“We know we can’t allow them to pick us apart, so we have to be creative with how we defend them and to change up our looks, our coverages, and vary where we bring pressure from.”

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