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Tornado seniors part of solution

Tornado seniors part of solution
In the aftermath of one ending, Darren Bowling spoke of another beginning.
“This group of seniors, hopefully, they’ll look back one day and be able to say that they were the starting point to Union City football getting back to where it once was and where it belongs,” the Tornado coach said after a painful 17-14 loss second round playoff loss to McKenzie Friday night.
“You can’t have a good season without good seniors. When this new coaching staff came in here last January, we challenged these kids mentally and physically in ways they’d never been challenged before. They accepted us and bought into what we were selling and they saw the fruits of their labor in a 10-win season and a win in the playoffs. That’s something we can build on.”
The UCHS program indeed has seemingly reversed a recent trend in which it had fallen from the list of perennial rural West Tennessee powers.
Consecutive 6-5 seasons that included first-round playoff blowouts followed the only notable season of the last five — a Class A state championship game appearance in 2005. Before that, the Twisters went 2-8 and 3-7, respectively.
Bowling and defensive coordinator Wes Kennedy were then brought in from Dyersburg and, along with three new assistants and staff holdover Mack Moore, have given Purple and Gold hope that even brighter days are in the future than the program’s just-completed campaign.
Before that, though, Union City must replace 11 quality seniors — something the Tornado skipper said will be difficult.
“Those guys, they’ve been such a joy and so eager to embrace us and leave their mark in turning this program around,” Bowling claimed. “I looked in their eyes and saw the hurt after tonight, and that’s because they invested so much of themselves in what we did from January until this game. They worked, they sweated, they sacrificed.
“They’ll be able to come back to this program and see the mark that they left.”
Mr. Football finalist Colton Speed and his more than 1,400 rushing yards and 29 touchdowns will be among those UC must replace next season.
His will not be the only void, however.
Starting linemen Wyatt Carr, Brandon Crume and Caleb Poore — Crume a two-way regular — also graduate. So too, will three-fourths of the secondary in Peter Wilkes, Julian Moss and Brandon Easley, the former also the team’s capable kicker, the latter additionally the team’s top receiver and punt returner.
Luke Sanderson, a fullback/end who gamely battled his way back from a dislocated elbow suffered at midseason to provide quality plays on Friday, also played his last game in a Twister uniform.
Thomas Turner, Dewain Dewalt and Julius Foster all likewise are seniors and were lauded by Bowling as contributing members to this year’s squad.
“The toughest thing for those guys is that they somehow have to put this behind them,” the coach said. “To have your guts ripped from you in a loss like this, it’s tough to get over. It’s one of the life lessons football teaches though, and they’ll have to get up, clean themselves off and move on. It won’t be easy, but neither is life.”
Fortunately for Bowling, the Tornado cupboard is hard bare for the immediate future.
A junior class that features the entire backfield — minus Speed — and led by bruising fullback Josh Nicks, speedy Kendrick Price and versatile Jacob Worley all will return. So too, will dynamite defensive linemen Ronnie Fair and Trey Maddox, rock-solid center Will Arnold, and both rising standouts
Stevie Gossett at defensive end and Zack Cavness, who will inherit the QB spot.
Middle linebacker Rance Barnes, whose absence with an ankle injury the last two weeks was severely felt, will also be back.
“Now, it’s these juniors’ turn,” Bowling said. “They have to step up and be leaders to the younger guys. That includes what they do both on the field and off of it. We won’t let them rest on any of the accomplishments we might have earned this year.
“As soon as the (state mandated three-week) dead period is over, we’re going right back to work, harder than ever. It’ll be time to start something new.”
Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com.

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