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UC puts hurt on Rd. 1 foe

UC puts hurt on Rd. 1 foe
UC puts hurt on Rd. 1 foe

Union City’s Stevie Gossett sacks Halls quarterback Craig Davis during the Torandoes’ 55-0 victory in Round 1 of the TSSAA Class A playoffs.
War Memorial Stadium has become Halls’ own personal woodshed.
Union City’s homefield was the venue for another Tiger whipping Friday night, the latest a 55-0 Tornado beatdown in Round 1 of the Class A state playoffs.
The victory margin — which actually could’ve been worse if not for two first-quarter touchdowns being called back — was the largest ever in UC’s 43 all-time postseason games. It also was a more lopsided defeat for Halls than the last time the two teams met in the playoffs — a 54-7 Twister blowout in 2005 in Round 1.
Union City’s 10th straight win propelled the eighth-ranked locals on to a rematch this week with No. 9 McKenzie (9-2) — a 7-6 winner over Manassas Friday in Memphis.
The Tornadoes beat the Rebels 21-16 in Week 4 on their way to the Region 7A championship, though McKenzie cried foul afterward when a late touchdown was negated by a penalty and another questionable no-call went against the visitors in the final minute.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at UC’s homefield.
The Twisters chewed up that turf and Halls in a thorough and convincing beating in Round 1.
Physically manhandling the Tigers in all facets, Union City dominated in every shape, form and fashion.
And while the Tornadoes’ midline/veer offense continued to click on all cylinders with its fourth straight game of more than 400 total yards, the UC defense was downright brutal in smacking around the Tigers’ version of the heralded ‘Tony Franklin’ spread-set offense.
All totaled, Union City allowed just 72 yards — actually netting 77 on three pass completions before minus-yards on running plays took away from that total. The closest Halls got to scoring was when Tahj Barlow lined up for a 33-yard field goal late in the first quarter, only to see that attempt blocked by Brandon Easley.
Otherwise, the Twisters re-lentlessly chased Halls quarterback Craig Davis all around the pocket, sacking him three times, intercepting him twice, and surrendering just four completions in all in 17 attempts.
Ronnie Fair, Stevie Gossett and Zack Cavness each recorded sacks of Davis while Josh Nicks and Jacob Worley picked off the Tiger QB. Nicks also scooped up a fumble caused by Easley and rambled 33 yards for one of his three touchdowns.
Running the ball against the Purple and Gold meanwhile, was completely out of the question for the visitors. In all, they lost yards on eight of their 21 carries and ended up five yards in the hole while becoming the fourth of UC’s last six opponents to end a game with minus-rushing yards.
Gossett’s seven tackles topped the victors’ hit list, while Trey Maddox totaled six stops
“I know we talk a lot about our offense starting to peak, but I believe our defense is right there with them,” an obviously-pleased Tornado head coach Darren Bowling said. “Their goal was to dominate right from the get-go tonight, and they did. They never gave Halls a chance to get into any kind of rhythm.
“I think the kids took stopping the pass as an extra challenge because we struggled with that early on. Our assistant coaches and our scout team did an outstanding job in practice during the week simulating what Halls was going to do. That really paid off tonight.”
Offensively, UC was simply unstoppable again.
Kendrick Price continued to emerge as a big-play threat by sprinting for a 70-yard TD and 126 yards in all, while the bruising Nicks rushed for 103 yards and two scores. Quarterback Colton Speed called his own number for two touchdowns and 70 yards, and Jacob Worley scored twice for the second straight week on runs of 17 and eight yards.
The Twisters mixed in a little trickery too.
Easley was on the receiving end of a fake-punt play that went for 58 yards after he was left all alone and caught a pass from Speed. Easley also accounted for a two-point conversion on an end-around, the same play that Julian Moss ran for a 17-yard gain earlier.
“We’re continuing to evolve offensively,” Bowling added. “You always add a wrinkle or two the longer you play, and we did a good job of executing on a couple of things that people will have to prepare for now after seeing them.”
The Tornadoes scored on their last six possessions after Price had a 95-yard touchdown dash and Speed a 70-yard scoring jaunt wiped away by illegal block flags in the first quarter.
Speed’s two-yard TD keeper was his second of the opening frame and was set up by the Speed-to-Easley pitch-and-catch on the faked punt. Worley, who caught Speed’s only other pass attempt for a 29-yard pickup, ran 17 yards to paydirt to make it 20-0 at the 9:19 mark of the second frame.
Nicks’ nine-yard rumble into the endzone and another Worley scoring run — an eight-yarder a minute before the intermission — made it 35-0 at halftime.
With the mercy rule invoked, the clock ran continuously in the second half, even through scoring plays and when the teams changed sides of the field between the third and fourth quarters.
And UC still scored three times, the first on Price’s aforementioned 70-yard dash — made even more impressive in that it followed him “having his bell rung” just a few plays earlier when he and Cavness violently collided on a kickoff coverage.
Nicks then scored when he picked up Graham Moore’s fumble and ran 33 yards into the endzone, flattening Davis at the goal line in the process and temporarily knocking the Halls QB from the game.
The Twisters ran just one play in the fourth quarter, Nicks barreling his way up the middle for a nine-yard TD after Worley had picked off Barlow who’d come on for the shaken Davis. Peter Wilkes, who made 5-of-7 PATs, accounted for the final point with six minutes left.
“I know everybody’s exited about us moving on and how we dominated, but we’ve still got some things to work on,” Bowling concluded. “Penalties cost us two touchdowns, and ball security was an issue again when we lost a fumble in the first quarter that could’ve resulted in points.
“We’ve got to get those things corrected. The deeper you go into the postseason and the bigger the game, the more those mistakes are magnified.”
Halls ends its season with a 5-6 record.
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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