School: Union City
By the numbers: The “Thunder” in the Tornadoes’ “Thunder and Lightning” rushing offense, Nicks continued to shine since being moved to fullback a month ago in UC’s 55-0 rout of Halls in the opening round of the Class A playoffs. He eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the ground for the third time in four weeks since his position change, rumbling for 103 yards on 16 carries, including two touchdown runs of nine yards each. He added a third score when he scooped up a fumble caused by teammate Brandon Easley and scooted 33 yards to paydirt — plowing over Tiger quarterback Craig Davis at the goal line in the process.
Sound bite: “He’s so physical running the ball, and he punishes people when they try to tackle him,” UC head coach Darren Bowling said of Nicks. “Halls came out and challenged us in that they could be physical with us. And Josh really made a difference, not only with his carries but in the way he carried out his fakes and made their defense think he still had the ball even after Colton (Speed) had made his reads and kept it. He’s getting better every day and in every game. He’s really opened things up for the rest of our offense by making opposing defenses respect him as a threat at fullback.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Kendrick Price, UC junior slot, ran for a team-high 126 yards on just six carries, a 70-yard touchdown sprint included in the aforementioned romp over Halls. Price, who recorded consecutive 100-yard rushing performances with his effort, also had a 95-yard scoring dash wiped off via a penalty flag.
School: Union City
Pos.: Defensive back
By the numbers: Easley was in on two huge special teams plays and also made a big hit that caused a turnover and resulted in Nicks’ 33-yard fumble return for a TD in Union City’s opening round demolition of the Tigers. Easley bolted around end to block a 33-yard field goal in the first quarter to deny Halls its only real chance at points. He also caught a 58-yard pass from Colton Speed on a faked punt play that set up the Tornadoes’ second score. Perhaps his biggest “wow” play was a bar-jarring tackle of Graham Moore that separated the ball from the Tiger receiver, with Nicks picking up the free pigskin and lumbering to paydirt.
Sound bite: “When he plays with confidence and up to his capabilities, nobody’s better than Brandon,” Bowling said of Easley. “He has so much natural ability and so many gifts that most other players don’t have. His confidence has gradually grown throughout the season and what we saw Friday night was a very self-assured player who made plays in several facets of our game. He can be as good as he wants to be.”
HONORABLE MENTION: Stevie Gossett, UC junior end, posted a team-high seven solo tackles and recorded one of the Twisters’ three quarterback sacks; Trey Maddox, UC junior tackle, finished with a half-dozen individual stops.