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UC’s Colton Speed honored among state’s football elite

UC’s Colton Speed honored among state’s football elite

Posted: Monday, December 1, 2008 9:09 pm
By: Mike Hutchens Messenger Sports Writer

 By MIKE HUTCHENS Messenger Sports Editor MURFREESBORO — Just like one loss didn’t ruin an otherwise noteworthy season for the Union City football team, Colton Speed’s not winning the state’s top Class A offensive honor failed to diminish his standout accomplishments this year for the Tornadoes. “That’s a pretty elite group to be included in as one of the three best Class A backs in the state,” UCHS head coach Darren Bowling said after South Pittsburg’s David Jones edged out Speed and James King of Manassas for the Tennessee Titans Class A Mr. Football Back of the Year Award. The prestigious honors in five Division I classifications and two Division II categories were handed out today at noon at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center in Murfreesboro. A panel of nine sports writers from across the state determined the winners after coaches and media members nominated candidates to be considered. Preston Gilbreath of Mount Pleasant was the Class 1A Lineman of the Year winner, edging Brent Ford of Trousdale County and Grace Christian’s Tyler Richardson. In the Class 2A Back of the Year competition, Goodpasture’s Ben Cunningham won over Kane Crowell of Lewis County and USJ sophomore quarterback Jake Overbey, while Henry County star quarterback Marsalis Teague claimed the Back of the Year award in Class 4A. Speed was just the sixth UCHS player to be nominated for the distinguished award in its 29-year history. Only Mario McElrath in 2000 was a winner from the Tornado program that also produced finalists in Josh Johnson (1999), Scottie Hayslett (1997) Chris Smith (1993) and Marcus Lewis (1992). “These awards are reserved for the most special players, and Colton was no doubt in that category for us,” Bowling added. “I think if you’ll go down the list of finalists, every player that was up for Mr. Football had not only exceptional physical skills, but they also possessed intangibles. That’s what Colton brought to our team. “He was a great competitor and, no doubt, was a deserving finalist even though he didn’t win. I compare it to our season. We didn’t end it like we wanted to, but it doesn’t take away from some of the special things we accomplished in turning this program around. It’s the same thing with Colton and Mr. Football. He might be a little disappointed, but it was a great honor for him just to be nominated and for our program to get the recognition, too.” Speed — who rejoined the program in the spring after not playing his sophomore and junior seasons and following the hiring of Bowling — was indeed a key cog in what turned out to be a high-powered Union City machine. He was immediately installed as the Twisters’ starting quarterback in the team’s midline/veer offense and flashed the elusive big-play form that had delighted Purple and Gold faithful during his promising freshman campaign when he was a running back. He rushed for 1,496 yards — the most-ever in a single season by a UC quarterback — and scored 29 touchdowns while averaging 8.5 yards-per-carry. All totaled, he produced 2,088 yards and had a hand in 36 TDs when 692 passing yards and seven scores were added to his rushing total. Speed ran for 100 yards or more in seven of the Tornadoes’ 12 games, highlighted by a jaw-dropping 310-yard, six-touchdown performance in a 55-41 shootout victory over Lake County. He had five more TDs on just 10 carries in a late-season romp over Greenfield and ran for more than 200 yards against Bruceton. Speed regularly electrified both fans and opponents as 14 of his 29 rushing touchdowns came on dashes of 25 yards or longer. He finished the season with 176 total points. The Tornadoes averaged almost 38 points-per-game and won 10 straight and the Region 7-1A championship in a season that reversed the recent mediocre trend of a program that was one considered annually among the elite of rural West Tennessee. Jones was a standout on both sides of the ball for South Pittsburg, which was upset in the state quarterfinals by Trousdale County after being ranked No. 1 the entire season. The Pirate running back who was the MVP in last year’s state championship romp over McKenzie, played little in the second halves of games this year because his team was usually comfortably ahead. He still averaged over nine yards-per-carry with 18 touchdowns and totaled nearly 900 yards rushing in parts of 10 regular season games. Jones, a Division I recruit who has yet decided on a college, also starred at linebacker. King ran for 1,427 yards and 13 TDs during the regular season, ranking No. 4 in all of Memphis in rushing. Sports editor Mike Hutchens can be contacted by e-mail at mhutch@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 12.1.08

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